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Category — Kashmir

US backs India on OBOR, says it crosses ‘disputed’ territory

PTI report in Hindustan Times online,Oct 04, 2017
The Donald Trump administration threw its weight behind India’s opposition to the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying it passes through a disputed territory and no country should put itself into a position of dictating the Belt and Road initiative.

India skipped the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in May this year due to its sovereignty concerns over the nearly $60 billion CPEC, a flagship project of China’s prestigious One Belt One Road (OBOR), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Having returned from his maiden trip to India last week wherein he met his counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared on Tuesday to be a strong opponent of China’s ambitious OBOR initiative.

“In a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road’,” Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing.

“That said, the One Belt One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think, that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” Mattis said apparently referring to India’s position on CPEC.

Mattis was responding to a question from Senator Charles Peters over OBOR and China’s policy in this regard.

“The One Belt One Road strategy seeks to secure China’s control over both the continental and the maritime interest, in their eventual hope of dominating Eurasia and exploiting natural resources there, things that are certainly at odds with US policy. So what role do you see China playing in Afghanistan, and particularly related to their One Belt One Road,” Peter had asked.http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-backs-india-on-obor-says-it-crosses-disputed-territory/story-Lh2aIU5Nt5BGYUMCj8xk3L.html

October 4, 2017   No Comments

Maleeha Lodhi’s criminal faux pas: by KK Shahid in The Nation, Sept 26, 2017.

When you’re making a statement as big as accusing another state of being the “mother of terrorism” in the region, it is always a great idea to have evidence at hand.

Notwithstanding the growing links between Indian intelligence and both separatist militancy and jihadism – both of which might be exacerbated, but not created, by New Delhi – there are myriads of examples of the state’s human rights abuses in Kashmir.

To be fair to Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, it is from that blooded pool that she pulled out a picture that was always supposed to be a gimmick more than any actual case-defining proof. For, even the most devoted of Indian state apologists won’t dispute the horrific use of pellet guns, which has been on the rise since last summer, blinding hundreds of Kashmiris – they might make excuses, but would never contest it.

Therefore, the display of an image depicting a victim of the pellet gun attacks was to back the label that Ms Lodhi was going to slash on India: mother of terrorism in South Asia that is carrying out a “campaign of brutality… including shooting and blinding of innocent Kashmiri children with pellet guns”.

This is where the picture was supposed to be used, for impact.

Earlier, the Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had traced the nadir of embarrassing kindergarten trash-talk by calling Pakistan “the greatest exporter” of terrorism, following it up with a list of India’s top educational institutes, which had been juxtaposed by a list of jihadist groups.

With a wittier writing team at her disposal Ms Swaraj might’ve got the punch right, even if it might’ve smacked of hawkish hypocrisy.

This, of course, is not to deny Pakistan’s troubles with sheltering jihadist groups. But there could hardly be a worse time for India to pointing fingers elsewhere, at instances of “havoc, death and inhumanity”.

Therefore, Ms Lodhi, on behalf of Pakistan, had the perfect opportunity to put India in its place by taking the backseat in the mudslinging contest and simply stating Islamabad’s narrative amidst atrocities New Delhi continues to overlook, if not actively back – as PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had so eloquently done a day before.

However, Islamabad – through Ms Lodhi – chose to follow up New Delhi’s “my daddy is stronger than yours” with “no, mine is”.

Fair enough, when the opponent is plunging deep into the mud-pool and throwing whatever they can get their hands on at you, you might not be able to keep that collar white for too long.

Even so, when theatrics had been decided over an issue as cumbersome and contentious as Kashmir, that howler that Ms Lodhi pulled off is criminal on many fronts.

For starters, the fact that it wasn’t a revelation on Islamabad’s part saved Ms Lodhi from further damage, if not embarrassment – imagine dossiers of Indian crimes in Kashmir turning out to be documents on Israeli Defence Force.

But if you ever needed one example of Islamabad being completely oblivious to the on-ground realities of the Kashmir conflict, and its unflinching ‘support’ being a perpetual cause of trouble for those striving for their right to self-determination, look no further than Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations using the picture from Gaza to present its case for Kashmir.

The picture of Rawya abu Jom’a, taken at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, captured by Heidi Levine in 2014, has been used by publications as illustrious as The New York Times and The Guardian.

If Pakistani UN Mission’s research team had gone beyond the first row of the first page that showed up in their Google Images search for ‘Indian atrocities in Kashmir’, they might’ve realised their mistake – this, of course, is considering that they’ve already pleaded guilty to their inability in using basic fact-checking tools to verify images and videos, through this criminal faux pas.

Now, using the wrong image itself mightn’t be detrimental to the Kashmiri cause itself, considering again that everyone not residing under a rock would’ve seen the horrifying images from Kashmir, and can assume on Ms Lodhi’s behalf that she had actually showed one of the many truly bloodstained photos.

What it does do, however, is find Islamabad guilty of both negligence and/or complacence on the Kashmir crisis that can only come from a) the long-held assumption that Pakistan’s position is so morally superior, that there actually is no case to be fought – or b) Islamabad’s helplessness in mustering support for the aforementioned case, which even the Muslim world has abandoned.

Case in point: there have been 223 UN resolutions against Israel over Palestine in the last decade, none on Kashmir since 1957.

But why are the ‘Muslim brethren’ refusing to support Pakistan over Kashmir, where so many Muslims are being victimised by a ‘non-Muslim’ state?

The answer can be found in the image of Rawya abu Jom’a and its wielding at the UN by the envoy of Pakistan – a state that has only ever aggravated the Kashmiri struggle, all the while using it to take strategic decisions that have become guillotines of human rights abuses and violence in its own backyard.http://nation.com.pk/columns/26-Sep-2017/maleeha-lodhi-s-criminal-faux-pas

September 26, 2017   No Comments

How we lost Kashmir: By Hussain Nadim in The Express Tribune, Sept 26, 2017.

It was nothing short of an exceptional speech by our seasoned ambassador to the UN at the General Assembly. Grounded both, in reality and higher moral footing, it was a befitting response to a xenophobic characterisation of the people of Pakistan as terrorists by the Indian foreign minister. The ambassador’s speech was, however, short-lived and lost credibility before it could even develop one.

In the midst of glory, she committed what should be an unforgivable mistake that is not only going to embarrass Pakistan in the decades to come but has also dented its rightful stance on Kashmir — the use of false evidence and that too at the UN General Assembly. With emotions running high in Pakistan and the patriotic need to stick to one’s guns, the full extent of damage, while not clear to many at the moment, will be felt every time in the coming years Pakistan raises a point on Kashmir, and at any forum.

Courtesy our ambassador, the UNGA has ended on an ugly note for Pakistan and there is no point in hiding from this or remaining in denial. India now has legitimate evidence, which it has already begun to use to discredit Pakistan terming it the ‘Mother of lies’ by equating Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir with that of Pakistan’s supposed duplicity on hiding Osama bin Laden. As senseless as the two connections may be, at a forum like the UNGA, the purpose of which is to build and shape narratives, Pakistan has unfortunately lost the deal on Kashmir. And it will take a decade or more to build the same momentum for the world to take notice.

The government can either choose to ignore this, and we as commentators try to give it a spin, play it down, defend our ambassador for an otherwise brilliant job, and develop a precedent that it’s okay to be incompetent once in a while at the cost of damaging the nation. Or the government decides to put its foot down and remove the ambassador from such an important position where there is no room for error. The problem is that those in position of authority are not ready to call out the ambassador for her mistake, mostly out of courtesy and those aspiring to be in a position of authority or the commentators and scholars find themselves reluctant to be in the bad books of someone like our UN ambassador, who is so deeply established in the power circles. That leaves us with the security establishment that finds the world of expertise beyond Lodhi and Mushahid as dark and gloomy. The net result is that we carry on with a legacy of incompetence expecting a different result.

The norms and professionalism would suggest that the ambassador resigns on her own, but that won’t ever be the case in Pakistan. The charm of power, prestige and glory always prevail over better senses — even if that costs the nation a fortune. Also, in a country where nobody resigns no matter what the reason, the pressure or moral sensitivity for our UN ambassador to resign is almost negligible.

You see, if after decades of experience, our ambassador is making an error as grave as this, while it may be convenient to shift the blame onto her staff, in reality it is about incompetence and that too right at the top. Her Excellency had one job, and if for whatever reason she hasn’t been effective in it, she herself is the only person to take the blame. There is no reason why the entire system or the nation bears the brunt of one individual’s error.

It was after all our incompetence that what was once known as Kashmir ‘freedom fight’ globally, in a matter of years got labelled as ‘terrorism’. And it is our incompetence today that the Kashmiris suffer on a daily basis. In times like these, it’s not India but incompetence that is our biggest enemy, and Kashmir is the victim.

September 26, 2017   No Comments

India-Pak ties: Maleeha Gaffe

Move to determine how photo faux pas happened at UN
by Anwar Iqbal & Masood Haider in Dawn, September 26th, 2017

UNITED NATIONS: A human blunder embarrassed Pakistan when its envoy displayed the picture of a Palestinian girl inside the UN General Assembly as a Kashmiri victim of Indian pellet guns and officials on Monday tried to determine how this happened.

The picture that Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi displayed on Saturday, while responding to a speech by the Indian foreign minister, was of 17-year-old Rawya Abu Jom’a who was injured during Israeli air strikes on her apartment in Gaza in 2014. The photo was taken by American photographer Heidi Levine.

By Sunday, Ms Lodhi’s photo holding aloft the picture became a rage on social media, as hundreds of thousands of people reproduced it on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

But by the evening, the mistake was exposed as researchers traced the picture back to Levine’s collection. Now, millions more reproduced the picture, highlighting the mistake. Indian media too went berserk as Indian television channels devoted one talk-show after another to underlining the blunder.

An Indian diplomat used the right of reply to criticise Pakistan, saying Islamabad was using false pictures to accuse Indian security forces of committing atrocities in India-held Kashmir. The diplomat claimed that since India was not committing any atrocities, Pakistan was forced to use a fake picture.

Officials at the Pakistan Mission in New York, as well as those at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, are now trying to determine how a wrong picture was passed on to Ambassador Lodhi.

While it’s still being determined how this blunder happened, Pakistan once again used the right of reply to respond to Indian allegations.

Tipu Usman, a senior Pakistani diplomat, told the UN General Assembly that India’s attempt to rake up a debate about the wrong picture had backfired.

The controversy brought “more international coverage” to India’s use of pellet guns against Kashmiris, said Mr Usman while responding to a statement by an Indian diplomat.

The Pakistani community in the US had initially praised Ms Lodhi for exposing the face of India’s democracy, but the mistake embarrassed them too as the Indian-American community used this mistake to ridicule them.

September 26, 2017   No Comments

Pak left red-faced at UN as envoy goofs up on picture

Report in The Times of India, Sept 25, 2017
NEW DELHI: In its zeal to rebuff India’s scathing indictment of Islamabad’s terror policy, Pakistan only managed to embarrass itself at the UN as it displayed a wrong picture of a purported Kashmiri pellet gun victim.

The photograph flashed by Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, turned out to be that of a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, Rawya Abu Joma, who was injured in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in 2014. Pakistan was attempting to get back at foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for slamming the neighbour for producing jihadis while India turned out “doctors and engineers”.

The photo was actually taken at Shifa hospital in Gaza by Jerusalem-based American freelance photojournalist Heidi Levine.

“This is the face of Indian democracy,” Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi said as she brandished a photograph while exercising Pakistan’s right to reply in response to Swaraj’s speech. The photo turned out to be that of a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, Rawya Abu Joma.

Screenshot of photojournalist Heidi Levine’s website shows the image of 17-year-old Rawya abu Jom, who was injured during the Gaza War.

Rawya was injured in an airstrike on her apartment in which her sister and three cousins were killed. So far, India has never used heavy military against its citizens in Jammu and Kashmir or elsewhere.

Lodhi had dramatically waved the photo in a misfired attempt to expose what Pakistan routinely describes as atrocities committed by Indian forces in J&K. In her response to Swaraj, Lodhi had described India as the “mother of terrorism” in South Asia. This was a big loss of face for Pakistan also because the right to reply in such cases is usually exercised by junior diplomats and Lodhi was fielded only to ensure that Pakistan’s message was heard loud and clear.

In her speech, Lodhi had invoked comments by celebrity Indian author Arundhati Roy to counter Swaraj’s assertion that Pakistan was the greatest exporter of terrorism.

“Much of what is in the air in India now is pure terror, in Kashmir, in other places,” Lodhi said, quoting Roy in her speech.

She also quoted the novelist —who is an activist for civil liberty causes —that “whole populations of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians are being forced to live in terror”.

Lodhi further said, “A racist and fascist ideology is firmly embedded in Modi’s government and its leadership is drawn from the RSS which is accused of assassinating Mahatma Gandhi.”

She slammed the decision to appoint Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of UP, saying “the government has appointed a fanatic as the chief minister of India’s largest state”. “It is a government which has allowed the lynching of Muslims,” she said.

Lodhi took particular objection to Swaraj’s observation about Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah who, Pakistani PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said, bequeathed a foreign policy based on peace and friendship. Swaraj had said it “remains open to question whether Jinnah Sahab actually advocated such principles”.

Lodhi said Pakistan remained open to resuming a comprehensive dialogue with India but it should include Kashmir and end what she claimed was a “campaign of subversion and state-sponsored terrorism”.http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pak-left-red-faced-at-un-as-envoy-goofs-up-on-picture/articleshow/60820650.cms

September 25, 2017   No Comments

US designates Hizbul Mujahideen as terror outfit

by Waseem Abbasi in the News, August 17, 2017
WASHINGTON: In another indication of its growing ties with India, the United States on Wednesday designated Kashmiri organisation Hizbul Mujahideen as terrorist outfit, freezing its assets and banning US financial transactions with the group.

In a statement posted on its official website, the State Department said the move was aimed at denying resources to Hizbul Mujahideen that it “needs to carry out terrorist attacks”. The announcement came nearly two months after the State Department declared the Hizb’s chief, Syed Salahuddin, as a global terrorist.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had called the earlier move “completely unjustified”. The decision had faced criticism and condemnation from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), with Kashmiris chiding the US President Donald Trump’s administration for “equating their legitimate struggle for internationally acknowledged right to self-determination with terrorism”.

Separately, on Wednesday, the US Treasury Department also said it had listed the Pakistan-based group as a counter- designated group, freezing any assets it may hold in the United States and prohibiting Americans from dealings with it.

“Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that Hizbul Mujahideen is a terrorist organisation. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organisations and individuals and deny them access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of US agencies and other governments,” the State Department said.

Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, told The News that the decision is another indication of how quickly the US-India relationship is deepening. “It may not be coincidental that the State Department announced this move the very day after the US and India announced a new initiative to deepen their strategic dialogue, which includes the formation of a new ministerial dialogue on defence and foreign affairs,” he said.

Kugelman believes the Trump administration is telegraphing a powerful message that on matters of militancy, it firmly sides with India. “I doubt this decision will have any type of major impact on Pakistan, but it will certainly cement the perception in Islamabad that Washington is deepening its embrace of New Delhi. That’s a perception that I imagine to be quite accurate,” he said.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/224048-US-designates-Hizbul-Mujahideen-as-terror-outfit

August 18, 2017   No Comments

In Kashmir, extremism is the real enemy: by Nyla Ali Khan in Daily Times, Apr 24, 2017

The writer is the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir, and a member of the Oklahoma Academy, a state-wide policy planning organisation

The growth of nationalism or an autonomous Kashmiri identity doesn’t necessarily have to be pursued through a politics that supports obscurantism or deliberately prevents spread of knowledge and information. The identity of a state or a nation cannot be built just on an unquenchable hatred towards the other and should, certainly, not be constructed by cashing in on the other’s pain and grief. It is or, at least, it should be inconceivable, in the day and age of a global economy, to spurn reason and ethics from one’s politics.

In a society as diverse as ours, the perpetuation of a politics that emphasizes cultural myopia and mono-cultural identities would prove to be only a bane of our existence, and may lead to intolerance, arbitrary justice, tyranny, and ignorance.

The contemporary political discourse in the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), particularly in the Kashmir Valley, doesn’t have to be limited to the framework of the two-nation theory. Nor should dissatisfaction with policies of Indian and Pakistani governments encourage glorification of reactionary politics. The rise of Taliban ideologues in any guise is the last thing J&K needs right now.

A lot of Kashmir observers, including academics and career diplomats, tend to reduce the conflict to just a dispute between India and Pakistan over sharing of Indus basin waters. I observed this first-hand during a discussion following a presentation delivered in May 2012 at Salisbury University, Maryland. Another tendency among observers is to see the issue only in terms of the religious-secular binary. There is a new breed of writers in the Subcontinent, particularly in Kashmir, who, erroneously, labour under the delusion that J&K has been a haven for pan-Islamism well before the partition of India. This view is completely anachronistic.

Interpreting the issue through the above mentioned lenses alone is problematic because it obliterates the legitimacy of regional political aspirations across party, religious, cultural, and linguistic lines. Take the case of this British-Indian academic who once labeled me as an “Islamist,” after I wrote an article on the autonomous status of J&K. Probably, he was thinking about autonomy only in religious terms, and not along political lines.

Such criticism has not deterred me from expressing my views on the Kashmir issue. At this juncture, I cannot emphasise enough how foolish it would be to ignore religious, provincial, and sectarian violence, or the growing obscurantism in either India or Pakistan. This will not bode well for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute. Similarly, the sanctioning of extremist political and religious ideologies in either of the two countries will prevent progress on the issue.

Sloganeering, rabble rousing and seeking constitutional amendments are all okay, but the real test of these activities will be in terms of their impact on institutions. This applies to most places rife with political instability. For instance, after reading a recent essay of mine on the issue, my editor pointed out that, “the constitutional victories gained in Egypt and Tunisia have brought the same concern to mind.”

In short, the disappointments that Kashmiris have had to face over the years shouldn’t dilute democratic aspirations. And extremist ideology must, at all costs, be kept at bay.

In 2008, Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari had claimed to be agonised by the strained state of relations between the two nuclear powers in the Indian subcontinent. While emphasising the importance of creating bonhomie between the two countries, Zardari had said that the resolution of the Kashmir conflict could be placed in a state of temporary suspension, for future generations to work out. The current Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, seems to have mastered the art of turning volte face on Kashmir issue.

Things look no better on Indian side either. No substantive measure has been taken by Indian governments following that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to initiate a composite peace process with Pakistan. Efforts at the “Quiet Diplomacy” by one-time Indian Minister for Home Affairs, P. Chidambaram, remained intermittent and interspersed with pugnacious responses by the Indian government to regional demands for greater autonomy.

A resolution to the Kashmir imbroglio requires an unprecedented and strong political will from leaders, policy makers, and civil society members on both sides of the Line of Control. Alongside, we need to remember that democratisation is an evolutionary process and there are no instant solutions for it. And to further this process, it is important to respect the pluralistic regional, religious, cultural, and linguistic ethos of J&K.

Towards this end, it is important to ensure accountability of state actors, including those elected by the people. This will bring transparency in the affairs of state institutions. It is equally important is to find ways for accountability of non-state actors as they too seek to climb their way to the echelons of power.

Although the sufferings of the people of J&K cannot be brushed off, the bitter truth is that it is time to summon courage to initiate a politics of construction. A fragmented society cannot accomplish anything, either politically or socio-economically. Can we begin the process of developing a cohesive society with coherent state policies? http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Apr-17/in-kashmir-extremism-is-the-real-enemy

April 24, 2017   No Comments

Pak Ups Money To Get More Recruits As Militancy Dwindles

By Josy Joseph in The Times of India

New Delhi: Kashmiri terrorists and refugees from Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have both received a pay hike. According to latest inputs from various intelligence agencies, Pakistani authorities are now offering terrorists coming to fight in J&K a monthly salary in the range of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. This is a huge jump from the average pay of Rs 5,000 they were getting earlier.

The reason for this benevolence is obvious. There has been a drastic drop in violence levels in J&K and militancy needs a revival if the separatist agenda has to continue to grab global attention. The number of terrorists in J&K is now hovering around 700, an all-time low since militancy erupted in the state in the late 1980s.

The desperation among terror groups is also visible in the return of Furqan, one of the senior most Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives who had been the group’s launch commander based in PoK for some years now. He infiltrated into J&K in April-end with a group but the Army was able to intercept them. Furqan is believed to have successfully evaded the Army and entered the state. His return, after more than four years, is being seen as a sign of LeT’s desperation to carry out a few sensational attacks.

It is not just Kashmiri militants who have got pay hikes. Those staying back in refugee camps of PoK too have been given increased financial benefits. From Rs 1,800 per month, their allowance has gone up to Rs 2,400 a month early this year, sources said.

Thousands of Kashmiri youth moved across the border to PoK in the past two decades for the explicit purpose of becoming trained militants. Many now want to return.

Bait Money

Pak authorities said to be offering Rs 8,000-10,000 a month to terrorists to fight in J&K, up from Rs 5,000

Only 700-odd terrorists in the state now, the lowest since militancy began in the state in the 1980s. The raise is an attempt to get more recruits

Those who crossed over and stayed back in PoK refugee camps getting Rs 2,400/mth against earlier Rs 1,800 Dole hiked to dissuade refugees from leaving PoK camps?

New Delhi: Pakistan is opening the purse strings to fuel militancy in Kashmir. The monthly salary of Valleybound ‘freedom fighters’ has been hiked to Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 from Rs 5,000. What’s more, thousands of Kashmiri youth who crossed over to PoK to train but have stayed back in refugee maintenance camps run by the Pakistan government will now get a dole of Rs 2,400 per month against Rs 1,800 hitherto.

There are no clear numbers, but some estimates say as many as 30,000 could be in PoK, holding state subject facility cards which grants them certain rights. Some have married local girls, and many Kashmiri youth have started small businesses.

While inflation is an obvious reason for the hike in monthly allowance for the refugees, the desire of many of them to return to India may have also been a reason for increasing the allowance, officials speculate.

In 2007, when Indian government opened up a liberal surrender policy for Kashmir, almost 150 of them came back. After a year, the policy was tightened, but sources now say that they are looking at revising it. An exodus of these refugees from PoK to J&K would hit Pakistan’s image, say officials. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5938412.cms?prtpage=1

May 17, 2010   No Comments

Ulema and terrorism: op-ed by Muhammad Ali Siddiqi in The Dawn, May 10

The proceedings at the Deobandi ulema’s recent conference in Lahore must be studied less for its expected refusal to condemn suicide bombings and more for the insight it gives into the psyche of a large section of our powerful ulema community.

Of equal significance are the fissures that came to the fore between hardliners and harder-liners. Evidently, the latter carried the day.

It was gratifying that at least some ulema — among them Maulana Samiul Haq — were cognisant of the negative impact which acts of terrorism were having not on the nation but on the Deobandi image.

While the delegates did indeed plead with the militants to adopt peaceful and democratic means for the establishment of Sharia in Pakistan, a majority of the ulema, according to Nasir Jamal’s reportage (Dawn, May 2), said terrorism would continue to haunt Pakistan as long as “factors and causes” responsible for it continued. What was mind-boggling, however, was the principle some ulema propounded to establish a link between terrorism and government policies.

Briefly, the ulema at the Lahore moot said that the government’s foreign policy was pro-America, and this obedience to commands from Washington in their opinion was the reason behind the militants’ war against the government. That this war against the government and the army translates itself into a war on the state of Pakistan itself was an issue into which the ulema chose not go.

If one were to accept resort to terrorism as a justifiable means for registering dissent against government policies, then every country in this world must be ravaged by terrorism, because there is no government on the surface of the earth whose policies do not have critics. Let us, for instance, see the situation in two of Pakistan’s neighbours — Iran and India — where government policies have diehard foes.

The nuclear deal between America and India was first agreed upon in principle when Manmohan Singh met George Bush in July 2005. It took more than three years for the treaty to go through the various phases of America’s complex constitutional process and approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the nuclear suppliers’ group.

The treaty evoked opposition from key members of the Senate and House foreign relations committees, but to my knowledge no senators or congressmen or lobby groups resorted to terrorism or to threats of terrorism to express disapproval of this aspect of the Bush government’s foreign policy.

In India the treaty aroused intense opposition, not only from the traditionally anti-American parties of the Left but also from the extreme rightwing Hindu parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party. The press was equally divided, and influential sections of the print and electronic media came out with highly technical opinions from nuclear scientists who argued that the treaty undermined India’s nuclear programme.

The opposition finally called for the Manmohan government to obtain a vote of confidence, and it goes without saying that the vote saw a phenomenon we in Pakistan are quite familiar with — MPs were bought and convicts brought from prison to cast their votes. All along the intensely emotional debate, no party or group started killing India’s own citizens and blowing up markets and schools and temples and mosques because they thought the Manmohan government had sold India to Washington or to its corporate sector.

To our west, we have a theocracy in Iran, almost as obscurantist and ruthless as Ziaul Haq’s tyranny. The clerics have imposed an ideological dictatorship on Iran, the Internet is censored, foreign channels are banned or shown selectively, there is no opposition press and even government newspapers are often banned when they deviate from the official line.

The economy is in a mess, and crude-producing Iran imports half its oil because of lack of refining capacity. The parliamentary opposition does manage to put its views across, but the real opposition has gone underground. But no opposition group has started killing Iran’s men, women and children and blowing up shopping plazas in Tehran and bombing schools in Isfahan or mosques in Mashhad because President Ahmadinejad is pursuing wrong policies.

It is, however, in Pakistan that some sections of the ulema think that killing our own people is a justified way of expressing dissent against the government’s policies.

Mind you, the government’s perceived pro-American policies do not have opponents merely in the religious right. Even liberal sections of opinion — the recently formed Workers Party Pakistan, for instance — are sharply critical of a continuation of Pervez Musharraf’s war on terror by the PPP-led government. But none of these political parties and elements has justified blasts in Moon market or the blowing up of mosques or a girls’ university to register their protest against the government’s foreign policy.

The religious touch to the ulema’s anti-Americanism is laughable. Just the other day, they were head over heels in love with America, and any opposition to the CIA’s overt and covert operations in Afghanistan was considered heresy because there existed an “indissoluble unity” among the People of the Books.

The ulema know the hurmat Islam attaches to human life. In case some of them have forgotten, the blast in the Rawalpindi Askari mosque on Dec 4 last killed, among others, 16 children.

P.S: For some mysterious reason, ideologically motivated governments, movements and individuals, whether religious or secular — Nazi, Zionist, Taliban — are singularly devoid of the milk of human kindness. The attitude of a large number of Pakistani clerics today reminds us of the Christian church’s cold-bloodedness in burning purported heretics at the stake in medieval Europe. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/ulema-and-terrorism-050

May 10, 2010   No Comments

Landslide lake in Hunza rises to threatening levels

LAHORE: The water level of a landslide-triggered lake in Hunza is threateningly on the rise, with another village facing risks of a flood, a private TV channel reported on Sunday.
The artificial lake formed out of a landslide, has not only destroyed the Atta Abad village, but also completely covered the villages of Gojal, Aieenabad and Shashkat. The threatening water level may inundate Gulmit, the headquarters of Gojal tehsil, as its low-lying areas are already under water, the channel reported.
The residents of Atta Abad were given a May 15 deadline to vacate the area after experts voiced their concerns that the Atta Abad Lake dam may breach soon. Separately, residents of Hunza district are facing severe food shortages due to a shortage of fuel.
Goods laden trucks have been unable to cross the Chinar Bagh Bridge, due to which fuel cannot be delivered to boats, leaving them stranded. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\05\10\story_10-5-2010_pg1_3

May 10, 2010   No Comments