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Posts from — November 2016

Challenges to the future of Pakistan: by Babar Ayaz in Daily Times, 30-Nov-16

The writer is freelance journalist and author.
Islam was exploited during the British Raj by driving a wedge between the masses of India on a communal basis to serve the interest of the Muslim elite and the middle class. That is why the religious leadership continues to insist that ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ was to implement Islamic laws and Shari’a.

At the same time, a majority of the people want a modern democratic state. Although Pakistan will mark 70 years of its independence next year, it is still not sure of its identity. The good thing is that the debate about its identity continues, though both the people and its leaders are confused as to whether Pakistan is an ‘Islamic state’, or should it be a ‘democratic state’. Democracy has to be secular if it is democratic in the true sense. There is a third equally strong strand that tries to synthesise the irreconcilable two: Islamic state with Islamic laws and a modern democratic state with the laws and values of the twenty-first-century polity. This predicament is being faced by most of the Muslim-majority countries whose societies are being pulled in two different directions. It is not the clash of civilisations, contrary to what was suggested by US writer Samuel Huntington; it is a clash within the Muslim societies, who being at different stages of economic development, are finding it hard to withstand the strong wind of globalisation. There are multiple streams of thought and aspirations in Muslim societies that are at variance with each other. Emphasis on religion was used to justify the creation of the massive war machinery, which needs an aggressive and adventurous foreign and national security policy. The natural corollary of this policy was giving more space and a free hand to religious extremists in the country’s politics, and promotion of Jihad as a tool for the extension of the national security policy crafted by the armed forces. The same so-called ‘assets’ of the security establishment are now the biggest liability of Pakistan threatening its future. The people of Pakistan have been suffering nerve-racking uncertainty for decades because of these perilous policies. With each turn of event in the country they have been asking the same question again and again: What will happen now? Will the country survive? Will it further drift into chaos and civil war? Will democracy survive? So on and so forth, it seems that all faces are now just question marks dancing around in public debate and private gatherings.

Many writers and scholars have attempted to deal with these questions and forecast the probable future of Pakistan — the country that is described as the ‘world’s most dangerous’. Let us first briefly review what these pundits are forecasting.

Stephen P. Cohen has highlighted ‘warning signs,’ which he says need immediate and urgent attention, although none alone are sufficient to ensure normalisation of Pakistan. I have listed these warning signs but changed the sequence on the basis of my understanding of the situation in Pakistan and prioritising them to provide a logical flow. The six warning signs include further appeasement of Islamists; recent crisis with India; unwillingness to deal quickly with economic issues; [Dependence on] the begging bowl; absence of governance at the top; and unwillingness/inability to rebuild state institutions.

I would add two more warnings. The fear of U.S-China scrambles to secure the Gulf waters and their conflicting interests in the coastal belt of Balochistan, and the widening economic inequality between the haves and have nots.

Cohen — and many other writers concur that Pakistani society is becoming increasingly polarised between Islamists, ‘who receive considerable state patronage,’ and the liberal democrats, who are on the defensive. The rise of Islamists’ militant movement to become the vanguard of Islamic Jihad in the world has plunged the country into a near civil war situation. This has destabilised the country.

However, the immediate threat to the country from within and fearing the present geo-strategic scenario, there has been some realisation in a section of the ruling class that tension with India has to be eased. A majority of the big businesses have also been pushing for the normalisation of relations with India as they see tremendous business potential between the two countries. But the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the war economy, it seems, sabotage all such attempts. The current tension between the two countries is very suitable for the intelligence agencies that thrive on destabilising each other by supporting their respective terrorist groups.

In response to the Pakistan’s flawed national security policy, which relies heavily on non-state actors’ terrorist activities in Afghanistan and India, the two states have started using the same tactics against Pakistan. The way things are, it seems that Pakistan will need to sit with these two neighbours and eventually sign an agreement that they need to get rid of such groups.

An overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are against religious extremism. The government, military, and the people will back any action taken against ruthless religious extremists. But the worrying point is that there is little debate in Pakistan on why religious extremism is rampant. Some of the questions that should be discussed and explored by social scientists are: Is religious extremism a new phenomenon was it embedded in the Pakistan movement in undivided India? Is religious extremism spreading and strengthening in Pakistan or does it appear to be expanding because religious extremists are using terrorist tactics to achieve their ideological goals? What external and internal factors have sharpened the contradiction between religious extremists and modernists? And is religious extremism and modernity contradiction peculiar to Muslim societies, or did other religions also got inflicted with this malaise? These questions need to be debated.

Religion and politics have to be separated to check sectarian strife and to stop state patronage to Islamists. The Jihadi organisations have to be wounded up along with a programme for the rehabilitation of their foot soldiers. Mosques and Madrassahs have to be closely monitored to stop them from spreading hatred against other sects. Madrassahs have to be converted to technical schools and other institutions imparting modern education on humanistic lines. Such reforms mean moving away from the religious nationalist narrative to build a secular society. Pakistan is not an early twentieth century Turkey where a Kemal Attaturk could rise to abolish the ‘Caliphate,’ which was a symbol of the temporal and divine world. But it can take a break from its stated religious nationalism and move towards secularisation of society based on reason and scientific life stance — the process which has been started by Bangladesh.

The do’s and don’ts list is long but what has been suggested above is the most urgent matter in the list. Otherwise, Pakistan would not be able to pull itself out of the quagmire in which it is sinking inch by inch every passing day.http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/30-Nov-16/challenges-to-the-future-of-pakistan

November 30, 2016   No Comments

PTI’s reshuffled legal team to plead against Sharifs By Hasnaat Malik in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2016.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan will appear today (Wednesday) in the Supreme Court with a reshuffled legal team not only to plead his case against the Sharif family’s offshore companies but also to defend himself against similar charges before a different bench of the same court.

Currently, the top court is hearing a slew of petitions primarily seeking Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification in the wake of revelations in the Panama Papers that his three children secreted away their wealth in offshore companies.

One of the petitions, filed by the ruling PML-N’s politician Hanif Abbasi, also seeks Imran’s disqualification for ‘concealing his sources of income’.

It will be the first day for Naeem Bukhari to argue the case on behalf of the PTI chairman after Hamid Khan declined to continue as the lead counsel for the PTI.

After the last hearing two weeks ago, Hamid had called it quits amidst judges’ criticism of his grandiloquence and the subsequent media coverage of the same.

The PTI, which submitted three volumes of documents against the Sharif family at the start of the case earlier this month, has augmented them this week with fresh evidence to press its stance that Sharif’s London properties had been purchased in 1990’s contrary to the ruling family’s claim of buying them in 2006.

Sources said the Sharif family would submit further details and additional documents pertaining to the purchase price of their London properties. “We will submit three separate registries of these flats before the court today,” a leader of the ruling party told The Express Tribune.

Moreover the PML-N legal team will press the bench to continue hearing the case instead of referring the matter to the proposed inquiry commission, sources added.

The ruling family is relying on two affidavits it has filed earlier – one by a Qatari prince and another by prime minister’s cousin Tariq Shafi – to prove money trail for the purchase of properties in Britain’s capital.
“If the matter is referred to the commission, both the gentlemen [the Qatari prince and PM’s cousin] will have to be in the witness box and will be cross-examined to authenticate their affidavits. This is one of the reasons we will like the current bench to adjudicate the issue,” another PML-N leader said while requesting not to be named.

On the other hand, the PTI will be testing its new lead counsel for the first time amid continued bickering within its fractured legal team. A segment in the party is pressing Imran to take a lead role and present the case himself.

Interestingly, one of the prominent lawyers in the PTI team, Babar Awan, did not show up in Tuesday’s meeting where party deliberated its strategy. Prior to appointment of Bukhari as the lead counsel, there were reports that Awan was considered as a replacement for Hamid. It is also likely that the PTI new lead counsel will give defendant the podium after making a concise statement.

“It will all depend on how the judges conduct proceedings tomorrow. Fate of cases of political nature hinges on how bench examines the matter – whether they go ‘inquisitorial’ or ‘adversarial’,” a legal expert said.

Elaborating the difference between the two terms, he said that in an inquisitorial system, the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case. In the adversarial approach, the court’s role is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defence. The PTI wants the court assume inquisitorial role, while the PML-N wants it to play adversarial role, he added.

PTI chief’s statement

In his 21-page statement submitted before the Supreme Court, Imran has contended that it has never been his stance that mere formation of an offshore company is an offence. “The issue is whether the assets under an offshore company are the outcome of money laundering, corruption, loot or plunder of the wealth of the country or the people of Pakistan,” he says.

The reply contends that the tone and tenor of the averments in the PML-N leader’s petition directed personally against him is contrary to law and the Supreme Court’s Rules 1980.

It states that the petition had been filed to counter Imran’s plea against Sharif, his family and others, to settle a personal grudge. He has also objected that Abbasi does not qualify the test of being bona fide as he had been defeated by Imran in the 2013 elections at NA-56 Rawalpindi.

“The petitioner is accused in what has become known as Ephedrine scandal and his role in the construction of Metro Bus Service between Islamabad and Rawalpindi is yet to be investigated.”

Imran also says that he paid all applicable taxes on his income by playing cricket and through other sources of income. He adds that he paid for his flat in London from money earned abroad.

The reply says the London property was purchased in 1983 out of the income earned outside Pakistan as a professional cricketer on which taxes were duly paid. Later, Niazi Limited was incorporated and its asset was the London apartment, whose absolute owner was Imran.

“The answering respondent (Imran Khan) married Jemima Goldsmith in 1995 and divorced her in June 2004. However, in 2002 his wife and family moved to the United Kingdom. In order to spend more time with his family, he was also spending his time during that period in UK. Later, he sold Landon apartment and purchased the land of Bani Gala,” it says.

Imran says he has never acquired funds from the prohibited sources to fund the political activities of the party, adding that he has neither instructed nor encouraged any member or sympathiser to destroy any state property. He also denies that he evade any taxes.http://tribune.com.pk/story/1248845/ptis-reshuffled-legal-team-plead-sharifs/

November 30, 2016   No Comments

The strange case of Dr Ebad: By Rahimullah Yusufzai in The News, November 30, 2016

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar
Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad should have resigned years ago instead of keeping his privileged job for so long that he had to be finally shown the door.

And Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, the distinguished former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, should not have agreed to become the governor of Sindh at this old age when he is frail and ailing.

These are idealistic thoughts, but there is nothing wrong in being an idealist.

Ishratul Ebad was appointed the 30th governor of Sindh by military ruler General Pervez Musharraf on December 27, 2002. It was obvious his appointment would not have been possible without the consent of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) or, precisely, of its founder Altaf Hussain who at the time was all-powerful. Musharraf wanted to oblige the MQM and it became evident in subsequent years of his long rule that he had patronised the party.

Ishratul Ebad never tried to hide the fact that he was the MQM’s man even though governors ought to be neutral and apolitical. His appointment was controversial and there were unsubstantiated accusations against him that he was involved in certain criminal cases.

When he lost trust of the MQM leadership, there was no justification for Ishratul Ebad to stay in office because he was appointed primarily to work as a go-between for the government with the MQM. In fact, during his tenure the Governor’s House until 2012 was the centre of MQM activities and the place to look to whenever the party’s cadres needed official help to sort out problems.

There were also other occasions when it was obvious that he had overstayed his welcome in the Governor’s House. Once he went abroad and stayed longer than expected. It was said at the time that he had quit and wouldn’t be coming back. However, Ishratul Ebad had no intention of quitting and before long he was back in his job. Otherwise, he would not have remained the governor for almost 14 years and set a record of sorts. It is certainly a record in Pakistan for a governor to remain in office for so long, though one has read that it is also a world record.

By the time he was belatedly replaced, Ebad had become a permanent fixture in the palatial Governor’s House. In fact, he was the youngest governor of Sindh when he got the job and was getting old at the time of his removal. Once hailed by MQM activists as an asset and a man of crises, his party leadership wanted him to be removed post-2012.

Another recent occasion for him to step down was when he became involved in an ugly verbal exchange with the Pak Sarzameen Party head and former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal. The way the two former MQM leaders stooped low and publicly ridiculed each other was bizarre and unfortunate. They accused each other of corruption and misuse of power. They had known each other for years, worked together and also praised one another at the time. Many felt both should have been investigated as the allegations were too serious to be ignored.

The kind of language used by them left much to be desired. In particular, Ishratul Ebad should not have used the words he chose to describe Mustafa Kamal considering the fact that he was holding the high office of the governor of a province. Besides, he had the reputation of being a soft-spoken and friendly man and his choice of words showed that he could be a different person when angry. Some would say the guitar-playing Ishratul Ebad went overboard and reacted rather harshly. Finally, though, he realised his mistake and called a ceasefire.

Though Mustafa Kamal was right when he predicted that Ishratul Ebad wouldn’t stay for a day in Karachi once he was no longer the governor, he too emerged bruised from his verbal encounter with his former MQM colleague. The fact that his party isn’t doing well in terms of seeking the support of the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs seems to have gotten on his nerves and it appears he considers Ishratul Ebad one of the reasons for the PSP’s less-than-expected performance. With the MQM Pakistan and the MQM London fighting it out for the Mohajir support and vote, the PSP has been pushed to the sidelines of the politics in Karachi and other urban centres in Sindh.

It was strange that successive governments of different political parties such as the PML-Q, PPP and the PML-N, along with military dictator General Musharraf, kept him as governor for such a long time. One explanation is that the powers that be wanted him to remain the governor to keep the MQM leadership in good humour and ensure that urban centres like Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, etc – where the MQM enjoyed support – remained calm and peaceful.

Another reason could be that, being an Urdu-speaking Mohajir, he was able to represent his people in a government run and dominated by Sindhis. In fact, it has now become a principle that a Sindhi is chief minister of Sindh and an Urdu-speaking Mohajir is the governor. So even if the MQM is not part of the coalition government in Sindh, there is still a Mohajir governor who is expected to speak up for his people using whatever little power he has in this glorified job.

An Urdu-speaking Mohajir had to be found to replace Ishratul Ebad and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, through his handpicked President Mamnoon Hussain, didn’t want to look beyond a loyal party man to fill the vacancy. Rewarding loyalists has long been a tradition with the Sharif family and the same principle had earlier been applied in case of Mamnoon Hussain.

Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui fit the bill and was made the governor apparently without anyone checking out his health status. His first appearance on television after being made governor clearly showed that he is now too old and ill to shoulder this responsibility. Within a few days he had to be hospitalised, allowing critics of the government to further ridicule the government for its choice.

The PPP government in Sindh had already been complaining that it had not been consulted about the appointment of the governor. The provincial government was justified in making this complaint because Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah being a PPP nominee would have to build a working relationship with the governor, and this would have been easier if he had been taken into confidence about this important decision by the PML-N-led federal government.

Justice Siddiqui, a gentleman and honourable man, would have been a good choice as governor, or for any other public office, when he was healthy and less elderly. He has had a distinguished career in the judiciary and his refusal to take oath under General Musharraf’s PCO contributed to his reputation as an upright and independent-minded judge. However, he is now nearly 80 and unwell. His image would have been enhanced if he had declined the offer to become the governor. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/168620-The-strange-case-of-Dr-Ebad

November 30, 2016   No Comments

Two Steps Back: edit in The Nation, November 30, 2016

Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, a former Senator and leader of JUI-S, is advocating the suspension of the provincial government of Sindh for passing progressive legislation that outlaws forced conversions in the province. The selective reading of what is considered Islamic or un-Islamic by important leaders must be seen for what it is.It is myopic, intolerant and cruel.One of the main tenants of his religion is tolerance, and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) never preached forced conversions.

This type of rhetoric from religious parties has now become a pattern.Any law or edict looking to grant fundamental human rights, such as the freedom to practice one’s own religion or grant some modicum of protection to women from abuse is always questioned by religious scholars, and they use their ‘scholar-status’ to use religion as a bone of contention.Annoyance at more inclusive policies has always been a problem for the religious right, and that annoyance has no value when compared with the need for the protection of thousands of Hindus and Christians, who live in fear of harassment and violence.The law makes forcibly converting a punishable offence, and adults will be given 21 days to consider their decision to convert.The law does not ban conversions, and it seems that that is how the former senator (mis)read it, because there is no way that the law can be interpreted as being un-Islamic.The law only criminalises forced conversions, often achieved via kidnappings and forced marriages of young girls.

The threats of individual freedoms in Pakistan are many, but it is often the religious parties that perpetuate an environment of fear and hate against women or minorities.
A bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has allowed emir of the banned Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat’s (ASWJ), Ahmed Ludhianvi, to contest in by-polls for a vacant provincial seat in Jhang.The court, completely ignoring that Ludhianvi is the leader of a proscribed organisation, granted him the right to run on the basis of not him being aware that there were any FIRs lodged against him.It is time these men, who openly promote the exclusion of minorities from the discourse of rights, and are linked with or run proscribed outfits, are openly called out for their lack of humanity and respect for the Pakistani citizen, regardless of caste or creed.Do we really see Pakistan progressing to peace when the father of the Taliban and one of the most vocal and violent sectarian leaders is allowed to run for office and can propagate his views in front of the general public?The decision to let Ludhianvi run should be overturned, and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq should be given a reminder that both this country and its religion are not that intolerant.http://nation.com.pk/editorials/30-Nov-2016/two-steps-back

November 30, 2016   No Comments

MQM Pakistan dissociates from cases against Altaf in London: report in Pakistan Today, Nov 30, 2016

The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Pakistan on Tuesday dissociated itself from legal cases against founder Altaf Hussain in London and barred its legal team from further representing those cases.

The MQM Pakistan after a detailed consultation decided to disassociate itself from the cases against the MQM founder in London.

Sources revealed that the MQM founder still faces several cases in London, including the murder of Dr Imran Farooq who was killed in London in 2010.

In this regard several lawyers pursuing the cases were in constant contact with the Dr Farooq Sattar-led MQM in Karachi.

However, MQM Pakistan has now contacted the lawyer’s firm in London and stopped it from pursuing the cases further on their behalf stating that it has no connection with him.

The MQM has requested the lawyer’s firm to refund the fees amounting to several hundred thousand pounds, which had been submitted as legal fees to pursue the cases in British courts.

The MQM Pakistan has already disassociated itself from the MQM founder after his controversial statements on August 22, and altered its constitution to scrap discretionary powers given to him.

It has repeatedly denied that it is in any contact with him, and has claimed to be the sole and legitimate party. Dr Farooq Sattar was subsequently appointed the convener of the party.http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/11/30/national/mqm-pakistan-dissociates-from-cases-against-altaf-in-london/

November 30, 2016   No Comments

The ‘minority problem’: By Yaqoob Khan Bangash in The Express Tribune, Nov 30, 2016.

The writer is the author of ‘A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.’
I’m sure many Pakistanis feel that recently there has been too much focus on ‘minorities.’ After all, they form just five to six per cent of the population, and where even the majority is not safe, they wonder why is there such a hullabaloo about the tiny minorities? Some see it as a foreign led agenda to malign Pakistan by pointing out the ill treatment of minorities, while others see it as a plot by minorities themselves to get easy asylum abroad. So what is the real issue?

The real issue is that Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities is a reflection on itself, its identity and its people — as a whole. Pakistan is a country which is constantly at war with itself. As one commentator once mentioned, Pakistan is a country which threatens by not point a gun at the other but at its own head — its Pakistan’s implosion which threatens world peace more than its war with any of its neighbours. Hence, how Pakistan views itself has a critical reflection on how it treats its minorities.

Numerically it is bizarre why minorities are a big issue in Pakistan. Enumerating with regards to religion, Pakistan has just about four to five million Christians, just over five million Hindus, and tiny percentages of Sikhs, Buddhists and other minorities. So in a country of over 180 million, just about 10-11 million are non-Muslims — that’s not even 10 per cent. However, under the constitution of Pakistan a non-Muslim cannot become either the President or the Prime Minister of the country. It is as if there is a chance for any Hindu or Christian to even rise to that position which necessitated this clause? In a country which is 94 per cent Muslim, it would be quite impossible for a non-Muslim to get first elected to parliament without Muslim support, then get a majority of the members of the National Assembly to support him/her, and then get elected as PM, or in the even more complicated scenario of the presidential election, get majorities in the provincial assemblies too — if any non-Muslim achieves this impossible feat perhaps they should become the PM or President in any case! But there is a law specifically to prevent this spectacular scenario.

Then there is the issue of forced conversion: it has recently become such an issue that the Sindh Assembly even passed a law to curb it a few days ago. While it is a reality everywhere in Pakistan, it is especially acute in Sindh where numerous Hindu girls are forcibly converted every year. Now imagine, Hindus are perhaps seven to eight per cent of Sindh now, down from about a third at the time of independence, and even when they are in such a diminished state there are elements which want to decimate them even further. The seven to eight per cent of Hindu faces are perhaps too much for these people and they want them to disappear even further.

Similarly any marginally sane non-Muslim would not even imagine saying anything against Islam or its Prophet, but yet routinely there are cases against them for blaspheming, and usually not only are the accused killed but whole communities destroyed in the reprisals.

So why is there such a ‘problem’ with only five to six per cent of Pakistan being non-Muslim? Why are there such pressures on them? They are such a small number that they cannot — even if they bizarrely want to, change anything in Pakistan. They can’t impact national politics in any significant way, can’t rise to the top, and even the middle in many cases, of either government or private offices, and are largely at the margins of society. Yet there are attacks against them, laws specifically discriminate against them, and there is increasing intolerance towards them.

Pakistan’s treatment of minorities in fact shows its lasting unease with itself. Pakistan was created as a homeland for the Muslims of South Asia, yet neither did it inherit a 100 per cent Muslim country, and nor did it, then or now, create a mechanism to deal with its non-Muslim population within the ambit of a nation-state. Since an important marker of the Muslim community was ‘not being Hindu’ there was always the need for the ‘other’ to forge community cohesion. Hence, no matter how small the ‘other’ its existence led to the distinction of the community. However, ‘other-ing’ within a nation state seldom works and the persistent need for ‘other-ing’ leads to the creation of newer ‘others’ and usually this process never stops.

Today we largely consider Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees as minorities, but increasingly Ismailis and Shias are being called that too, and who knows soon, the Barevelis (who might be in numerical majority) may be called minorities due to constant attacks on their shrines, and the process would go on till almost everyone is called a minority and discriminated against in one way or another.

Pakistan’s ‘minority problem’ is in reality a problem with itself. Until and unless the country stops being divided against itself and develop a ‘one nation’ theory, it will remain beset with a myriad of problems. And only we — the citizens of this country, can solve this. http://tribune.com.pk/story/1248508/the-minority-problem/

November 30, 2016   No Comments

Protecting minorities: edit in Daily Times, 30-Nov-16

As was rightly lauded by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf vice chairman, Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday, the landmark legislation passed by Pakistan People’s Party government in Sindh against the forced conversion of non-Muslims is, definitely, a “historic achievement”. PPP deserves this appraisal for taking the first step towards upholding our founding father’s solemn pledge to protect non-Muslim minorities as “equal citizens of the state”; something that Pakistan has not yet been able to realise.

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah might have enjoyed some solace in knowing that seven decades after he had selflessly fought for the rights of the then Muslim minority group in India, his nation is finally willing to commit to his cause. The conspicuous manner in which the country has ignored — or in some cases even facilitated — the torchbearers of intolerance in targeting religious minorities is secret to none. Despite the fact that both Islamic teachings and Pakistan’s constitution do not discriminate in their recognition of fundamental rights on the basis of religion, subsequent governments have not paid any regard to the effective implementation of the writ of the state. Hence, PPP’s initiative to criminalise forced religious conversions and the resultant forced marriages is a welcome development in safeguarding all Pakistani citizens against the notoriety of some members of its own society.

However, legislations, no matter how revolutionary they may look on paper, still require vigorous implementation to actually make a difference. It would take considerable effort by the Sindh government to ensure that the religious freedom advocated in this bill is being enjoyed by all minorities living in the province. Awareness campaigns to inculcate peaceful ideals that resonate with Islamic injunctions can also be utilised to involve local communities in establishing an embracing environment.

The plight of marginalised groups as they bear the brunt of societal persecution, physical threats, and incessant attacks, both vigilante and extremist, speaks volumes of the level of intolerance prevalent in the country. More than 2.9 million followers of religions other than Islam have been targeted by terrorists in the last decade. Adding that to the frequent episodes of mob violence when orchestrated attacks have previously ransacked Christian colonies, assaulted, abducted and even raped non-Muslim women, and beat and burnt minorities at whim paints a horrific picture of active persecution and rampant discrimination against minorities. More than 5,000 Hindus leave Pakistan out of fear for their lives every year. There is an even greater stream of people from other communities seeking asylum in other countries. Nevertheless, if the state continues to put its guard down against intolerance in such dire circumstances, there remains no literal value of the white portion of our flag. Glaring hate content present in our textbooks, little to no changes in personal laws, an unchecked usage of blasphemy laws to settle personal vendettas, and the constant impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of sectarian violence are some avenues that have not yet been confronted by the subsequent governments.

The trouble, however, is that the state alone cannot be held responsible for demarcating the value of Pakistani citizenship along the tiers of religion. Whenever the society has failed to acknowledge, let alone value, the contributions of its non-Muslim members, it has further cemented this discriminatory framework. Hence, what we urgently require is a revolutionised mindset that integrates all Pakistanis in order to develop the country as a whole. Protecting non-Muslims and their rights is not only a moral obligation on the authorities but also a security imperative for Pakistan to ensure the sustenance of its diverse social fabric. Both Quaid and our national flag would expect us to fulfil our responsibilities for the sake of humanity, if not social prosperity. http://dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/30-Nov-16/protecting–minorities-

November 30, 2016   No Comments

One month into Nasirnagar communal violence: Police yet to find motive behind attacks by Kamrul Hasan & Ujjal Chakraborty in Dhaka Tribune, November 30, 2016

Brahmanbaria: One month into Nasirnagar communal violence: Police yet to find motive behind attacks
Miscreants attacked Hindu temples and desecrated idols at Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria on October 30 over a Facebook post from an apparently hacked account. Public hype over the Facebook post, which was fuelled by aggressive comments by local leaders, led to the violent attacks on Hindus
It has been a month since the attacks on the Hindu community in Nasirnagar upazila of Brahmanbaria district, but police have yet to learn the exact motive behind the post of the controversial image on Facebook that incited the violent attacks.
Three investigation reports have been submitted to the authorities concerned, none of which has been able to identify who instigated the attacks or why. However, they maintain that religious sensitivity coupled with instigation by local leaders caused the attacks.
A mob attacked Hindu-dominated localities in Nasirnagar on October 30, injuring more than 100 people and damaging at least 17 temples and Kali Puja pavilions and over 50 houses over the Facebook post. Six more houses of Hindus were set afire in the upazila a few days later, followed by an attack on the house of Nasirnagar Upazila Parishad Vice-Chairman Anjan Deb and an attack on a Hindu fisherman’s house.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Nasirnagar police station OC Abu Zafar said they had yet to dig out information that could shed light on the events that led to the attacks.
Asked if organisers of the rally to protest the post – from where mobs went and started the attacks – had been interrogated or arrested, he said police had not interrogated them yet, but they were in touch with them.
When asked why they had not been arrested, the OC said they had arrested the primary suspects and were busy with other tasks in the case as well as raising awareness against communal violence in the area, before avoiding speaking on the issue any further.
However, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said the orgsnisers have to face the charges for the attacks as they arranged the rally in the first place.
One of the reports, submitted by a probe committee from Chittagong police range to the Police Headquarters on November 14, estimated that around 20 people directly or indirectly instigated the attacks.
“The findings show that a number of people took advantage of the factional conflict within the district and the upazila-level units of a political party and stoked communal hatred,” said Mohammad Sakhawat Hossain, additional deputy inspector general of police in Chittagong range.
Additional Superintendent of Police Iqbal Hossain said public hype over the Facebook post, which was fuelled more by aggressive comments by local leaders, led to the situation.
He further said organisers of protest held the gathering by taking only verbal permission from then upazila nirbahi officer Chowdhury Moazzem Hossain, which is mentioned in another probe report submitted by Brahmanbaria district police on November 24.
Abdur Rahim, headmaster of Ashutosh Pilot High School and brother of Awami League’s grassroots leader and Union Parishad Chairman Abul Hashem, acquired the permission, sources said.
Asked about police’s passive role on the day, Iqbal said he would not call it negligence, but
a mistake.
“I would not say that police’s failure to stop the attacks from happening was a result of their negligence. They could not properly assess the situation and act accordingly, or else the losses could have been minimised,” he told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday evening.
Around 100 policemen, some 60 from the police lines, were present at the protest venue.
The third report was submitted by a probe committee of the district administration on November 14.
When contacted, Brahmanbaria Deputy Commissioner Rezwanur Rahman declined to comment on the findings as it was being assessed by the authorities concerned.
But sources in the deputy commissioner’s office said the report found no evidence of negligence on part of both police and the administration.
Police’s announcement of a Tk1 lakh reward for information over the attacks did not get any response either, said Nasirnagar OC.
At least eight cases have been filed over the attacks so far, and 101 suspects have been arrested, including Rasraj Das, whose Facebook profile was used to post the image, Jahangir, whose cyber cafe was used to upload the photo, and Billah Miah, a truck driver who hired two of the trucks to carry some of the protesters to Nasirnagar for the rally on October 30.
Meanwhile, several affected Hindu families told the Dhaka Tribune that the compensation they received from the deputy commissioner’s office was inadequate compared to the losses they had suffered.
The deputy commissioner’s office provided Tk5,000 to each of 51 affected families and Tk10,000 to each of the affected temples, and gave them 114 bundles of tin sheets. http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/11/30/one-month-nasirnagar-communal-violence-police-yet-find-motive-behind-attacks/

November 30, 2016   No Comments

Attack on B’baria Hindus: One of the main instigators held Report in Daily Star, Nov 30, 2016

Detectives arrested one person early yesterday for his alleged links with the hate attacks on the Hindu community in Nasirnagar upazila of Brahmanbaria a month ago.

The arrestee, Jahangir Alam shared an anti-Islamic post that had appeared on the Facebook wall of Hindu youth Rasraj Das, made copies of it and distributed those to foment trouble, said Brahmanbaria Superintendent of Police Mizanur Rahman.

Jahangir was arrested at Kalaisree Para in Brahmanbaria around 12:30am. He had been on the run since he circulated the Facebook post the day before the attacks on Hindus, the SP said.

Jahangir, of Shangkardah village at Haripur union of Nasirnagar, is one of the prime suspects and organisers of the attacks. He along with his men caught Rasraj from his Horinber village and beat him up before handing him over to police.

The next day the gang along with an angry mob attacked Horinber village and vandalised and looted houses and temples, the SP said.

They also participated in vandalising and looting of 100 houses and 15 temples in five Hindu villages in Nasirnagar, 13 km from Horinber village.

The SP said a forensic lab test of Rasraj’s mobile phone at the laboratory of the Police Bureau of Investigation in the capital had found that the Facebook post was not uploaded from that phone.

“We are convinced that someone else uploaded it using Rasraj’s account as part of a plot,” the police official said.

On October 28, a photo was uploaded on the Facebook wall of Rasraj Das, a 27-year-old fisherman with very little education.

Brahmanbaria police said they also seized a computer from Jahangir’s Alamin Cyber Point and Studio at Horinber Bazar, which Jahangir used for copying the post.

Based on the information extracted from him, another hard disk was seized from Madhabpur and sent to the lab for examination.

Terming the arrest a “big success,” police officials said it would help them get names of the masterminds and other instigators behind the atrocities.

Jahangir was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court in Brahmanbaria yesterday afternoon, which placed him on remand for four days. Earlier, police in making wholesale arrest picked up 99 people, most of whom were innocent villagers. Even a mentally-challenged person was arrested in the case filed for vandalism, drawing huge criticism.http://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/attack-bbaria-hindus-one-the-main-instigators-held-1322653

November 30, 2016   No Comments

Hindu temples vandalised in Goalanda: Dhaka Tribune, Nov 29, 2016 at 07:41 PM

Idols of Hindu gods and godesses were vandalized at Charkachorondo village in Goalanda upazila of Rajbari early Tuesday
Panic of communal violence has gripped the Hindu community at Charkachorondo village in Goalanda upazila of Rajbari, as miscreants attacked five Hindu temples and vandalised 11 idols of Hindu gods and goddesses early yesterday.
The miscreants launched the attack sometime at night on temples owned by Shamor Sheel, Palon Karmakar, Montu Kumar Sheel, Partho Baran Das and Ratan Karmakar, said the victims.
The attackers demolished the idols of Hindu god Shiva and goddess Kali, they added.
Nirmal Kumur Chakrabarty, president of Bangladesh Hindu Budhhist and Christian Unity Council’s Goalanda chapter, termed the attack a shameful incident.
“The attack on the temples is not communal. It is a conspiracy. Here, Hindus and Muslims live together maintaining communal harmony,” Nirmal said.
He demanded a proper investigation into the incident and exemplary punishment of the attackers.
Rajbari Superintendent of Police Salma Begum, Additional Police Super Tariqul Islam, Assistant Police Super (circle) Asaduzzaman Asad, Officer-in-Charge of Goalanda Ghat police station Mirza Abul Kalam Azad and Chairman of Goalanda Chhoto Bhakla Union Parishad Md Amzad Hossain visited the spot on Tuesday morning.
The UP chairman said this type of incident had never happened in this locality before.
SP Salma said the real culprits would be brought to book after a proper investigation into the incident as soon as possible.http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/11/29/hindu-temples-vandalised-goalanda/

November 30, 2016   No Comments