The News – How the Sharifs differ and whose policy will prevail?

Ansar Abbasi

Islamabad,22 October 2017. Mian Nawaz Sharif is pretty sure that his younger brother, Shabaz Sharif, will never stab him in the back.

Since long they differ on the issue of how to deal with military establishment on matters denting civilian supremacy. However, both the brothers never let this difference of opinion create a rift between the two.

Previously, this difference of opinion was restricted to their private discussions.

Of late, this difference has become public with Shahbaz Sharif and his elder son, Hamza Shabaz speaking publicly against the policy of “confrontation” by Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

Without leaving any doubt in anyone’s mind, Hamza Shahbaz in his recent interview with Geo News tried to prove that his and his father’s policy of pragmatism is the only option to secure the future of democracy in Pakistan.

As is being done by the opposition, he gave the impression that Nawaz Sharif is pursuing the policy of “confrontation” with the military establishment.

Such voices in the Sharif family encouraged many others within the PML-N to prove Nawaz Sharif a “confrontationist” yet they all want to en-cash his popularity to secure N-Leagues possible success in the 2018 elections. They want to forget the past and also expect from Nawaz Sharif to let bygones be bygones.

Nawaz Sharif, however, does not want to forget how he has been removed from the office for the third time in 2017. He in view of the pressures from certain elements of the establishment though have been making compromises on the issue of civilian supremacy during his recent four year rule, yet he never let his idealism die down.

Some believe that his disqualification has furthered his idealism and now he wants to pursue much tougher objective of attaining civilian supremacy, which is seen by others as politics of “confrontation” with institutions.

Many in the PML-N including Shahbaz Sharif feel that this policy of Nawaz Sharif does not suit the PML-N. They believe that forgetting the past will help PML-N win the 2018 elections whereas the policy of “confrontation” will create serious problems for the PML-N as well as the Sharif family from the powers that matter.

Within the PML-N, Shahbaz Sharif has always been the advocate of staying on the right side of the establishment even if it involves serious compromises on the principles of civilian supremacy. Now he wants it more than before because he sees his chance as the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018.

Within the Sharif family, everyone knows that Shahbaz Sharif is next to Nawaz Sharif. The point of contention in the family is that who is number three in the family? Maryam Nawaz or Hamza Shahbaz.

Nawaz Sharif before 2013 was keen to groom Hamza Sharif as his political heir but later he changed his mind by letting his daughter to emerge as the future leader of the PML-N.

Soon after the 2013 elections, some of the PML-N leaders had suggested Nawaz Sharif to get Maryam Nawaz entered into the National Assembly through women specific seats for MNAs.

Then the elder Sharif, according to a source, said that Maryam had nothing to do with politics. But the later years saw Maryam getting her father’s tacit support to emerge as his political successor.

While the Maryam-Hamza issue is expected to keep buzzing within the Sharif family, their immediate division is how to go into elections. With mounting pressure from within the PML-N, Nawaz Sharif is expected to give the issue a serious thought.

Although he is seen as a “confrontationist” even by some of his own family members, there are many in the PML-N who insist that Nawaz Sharif had shown a lot of patience during the last four years in rule despite seeing certain obvious violations of civilian supremacy’s red-lines.

During these years Nawaz Sharif let Musharraf go off the hook despite his strong desire to try the former dictator for abrogating the constitution; he knows a lot about the alleged conspiracy behind the 2014 sit-in but never spoke his mind or initiated any proceeding to avoid displeasing the establishment; he also avoided talking about pressures that he has been facing during the second half of the 2016 from a key figure.


The Tribune – SAD image to blame for bypoll loss: BJP leaders

Say people have not forgiven Akalis for their ‘acts’

Vishav Bharti, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 22 October 2017. While reviewing the defeat in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election, the BJP leadership found that it was due to the fact that “the people of Punjab have not yet forgiven the SAD”.

A review meeting was held here today under the chairmanship of state president Vijay Sampla. More than 20 core group members, former state presidents and former ministers were present.

Party sources said the view of holding SAD responsible for the defeat was first expressed by a former cabinet minister who also served as the state party president for several years. He said the defeat margin in SAD stronghold was much higher than in BJP-dominated areas.

“Almost everybody present in the meeting agreed to the point that in past six months, not much has changed in the people’s perception about the Akali Dal,” said a former state BJP president. He said it seemed that the people had not yet forgiven the SAD for its acts during the 10-year rule.

The view was later vouched by the state BJP leadership.

Sources said a former BJP minister from Majha even went on to this extent of saying that the SAD “has become a liability for the BJP in Punjab and it is time to shed that liability”.

Another reason attributed to the defeat was the Congress government’s alleged politics of threat. During a press conference, Sampla said they had reached the conclusion that the main reason for their defeat was the “politics of threat followed by the Congress”.

He alleged that even the polling agents were threatened and many didn’t turn up for duty. “The Congress did not have anything to show in terms of performance, so it resorted to pressure tactics”, he alleged.

Walking to Dampoort

Walking to Dampoort
10 October 2017

Bijgaarde Park

Bijgaarde Park

Bijgaarde Park

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Moscou – Gentbrugge – Dampoort railway line

An interesting house in Gentbrugge

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Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Times of India – NRIs transform their village near Jalandhar

I P Singh

Jalandhar-Panjab-India, 22 October 2017. With an ultra-modern gymnasium, a sewage treatment plant, properly built roads, a separate storm water and sludge sewerage system, absence of filthy ponds, potable drinking water supply and other facilities, Sanghe Khalsa village in Jalandhar district has scripted a new success story with the active involvement of NRIs from the village in which the state government also pooled in.

A village near Nurmahal with a population of 700, Sanghe Khalsa has all modern civic amenities. It was around a decade ago when departing from the usual practice of Punjab villages to construct a memorial gate in the name of their forefathers at entry of village, a few NRIs decided to construct a gymnasium in their names to channelize energy of the youth.

Now this gymnasium with modern equipments is catering to the needs of youths from nearby villages. Trainers paid by the NRIs impart world training to the youths at the gym.

As Jalandhar deputy commissioner Varinder Kumar Sharma visited the village on Sunday, NRI Nirmal Singh who was among those who conceived the development projects in the village said that after the state government came up with partnership scheme for development of villages, NRIs of this village came forward to develop their villages on priority and constituted an overseas committee for this purpose.

They said that the election of this overseas committee was held every year on Maghi and the eldest member of the committee was unanimously elected its president.

The Hindu – India for safe return of Myanmar nationals, says Sushma Swaraj

Bangladesh has sought India’s ‘sustained pressures’ on Myanmar for its resolution of the Rohingya crisis

Haroon Habib

Dhaka, 22 October 2017. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday expressed deep concern at the spate of violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar and said India wanted the safe return of Rohingya to their homeland.

Ms Swaraj, who is in Dhaka on a two-day visit, was addressing a joint press conference after meeting Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali.

“India is deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar. We have urged that the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population. It is clear that normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons,” she said.

The Minister, however, did not use the word “Rohingya” and only referred to “displaced persons from the Rakhine State”.

She said India also supports the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, headed by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The Commission has suggested a number of measures for a “peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine”.

Ms Swaraj said the only long-term solution to the situation in Rakhine is rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the communities living in the state.

India, for its part has committed to providing financial and technical assistance for specific projects to be undertaken in Rakhine in conjunction with the local authorities, she added.

Mr Mahmud Ali said Dhaka has urged India “to contribute towards exerting sustained pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the crisis including the sustainable return of all Rohingya to their homeland”.

Though the Minister was in Dhaka for the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission meeting, the Rohingya issue dominated talks as the crisis took a new turn, with more than half a million of them entering Bangladesh since August 25, fleeing ethnic cleansing.

Bangladesh has been seeking international support, including from India, for their safe return.

The Bangladesh Foreign Minister thanked India for its support and said India is “our most important, trusted and friendly neighbour”. He added that the relations now stand on a “historic new height” due to initiatives taken across sectors.

Attaching the “utmost importance” to its relations with Bangladesh, Ms Swaraj said, “Our relations are based on fraternal ties and are reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership”.

“India has always stepped in to assist Bangladesh in times of need,” she said recalling the 1971 war of independence when the Indian army shed blood with Bangladeshis to liberate the country.

The India-Bangladesh meeting, which was co-chaired by Sushma Swaraj and her Bangladesh counterpart, reviewed cooperation in countering terrorism and extremism with both side vowing to maintain zero tolerance to terrorism and extremism.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Ali said both reiterated their commitment “not to allow use of our soils against each other’s interest”.

Teesta sharing

The pending Teesta water sharing issue was also discussed, with Mr Ali recalling the statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India that the Teesta agreement would be signed during the current tenure of the two Prime Ministers.

Both ministers also witnessed the signing of three bilateral documents which include capacity building in SMEs, sale-purchase agreement between Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and Numaligarh Refinery of India.

Ms Swaraj also met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Leader of the Opposition Raushan Ershad and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Sunday.

The Asian Age – Trump’s Afghan/Pakistan mess: A ‘rebalancing’ is needed

K C Singh

Op/Ed, 19 October 2017. America’s President Donald Trump announced his new Afghan policy on August 21, after an in-depth review. He changed three elements in his predecessor Barack Obama’s doctrine. One was a limited surge of 3,000 additional troops, taking the total to around 11,000.

He also took timelines off the table, which common sense and military leaders had anyway demanded as withdrawal dates allow the Taliban to, in sporting terms, run out the clock and avoid negotiations. Finally, Mr Trump loosened the rules of engagement, thus liberating field commanders from constraints on the manner and place of deployment.

What caused the real regional churn was his threatening message for Pakistan, seeking more action against terrorists and their sanctuaries while inviting India to increase its development footprint in Afghanistan. This caused sinking morale and ire in Pakistan.

In New Delhi, it seemed as if Diwali had come early, and ruling party spokespersons preened on television, using harsh and condemnatory language about Pakistan. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj took the same line as she turned her UN General Assembly address into a Pakistan-bashing session.

The global Indian vision had been subsumed in a vitriolic Pakistan policy. Pakistan adopted its time-tested methods of mixing ire with self-pity, bemoaning its sacrifices in combating terrorism. The onus for bringing the Taliban to heel was gradually shifted to Afghans or others, claiming it had diminishing influence on the group.

Links to the deadly Haqqani Network were denied, but by a magic trick Pakistan got released from the same group the Canadian-US Boyle family abducted since 2012. Mr Trump’s subsequent adulatory tweet saying he looked forward to working with Pakistan caused some discomfort in Delhi.

Even Rahul Gandhi hit his target sarcastically, asking whether it was not time for PM Narendra Modi to go hug Mr Trump once again.

In the process, the US objective has been largely lost. Senator John McCain, chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, asked appropriately that he would freeze confirmation of new defence appointees until he gets “a more detailed strategy for war in Afghanistan”. Some contours of the new US approach are visible already, though many ambiguities remain.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) met in Muscat, Oman, on October 16. When a senior US official was asked by me why only China was in that group out of the regional powers, besides the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the answer was that it was one of many groupings to enable finding a regional consensus on stabilising Afghanistan.

That is easier said than done as President Trump’s refusal to certify that Iran was abiding by the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal, and dubbing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation is likely to drive Iran to oppose the US’ Afghan policy.

It is conjectured both Iran and Russia have been lately offering the Taliban aid and sanctuaries. Thus US-Iran dissonance will breed Iranian non-cooperation or even hostility as the US moves to stabilise Afghanistan. Pakistan is partially right that other regional players are guardians of some elements of the Taliban, thus diminishing Pakistani influence.

Similarly, the Saudi Arabia-led pillorying of Qatar, which is being opposed by Iran and Turkey, will play out in Afghanistan. The only formal Taliban office overseas is in Doha, Qatar. It is now difficult to travel to Doha from many aviation hubs in the Gulf, making contact with Taliban leaders more difficult.

Apparently Saudi Arabia and UAE have opened their own channels to the Taliban leadership to remain in play. Thus the Iran-led Shia alliance rubbing against the Sunni alliance led by Saudi Arabia in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen will get reflected in their roles in Afghanistan.

However, a shared concern is the resurfacing of ISIS (Daesh) fighters, ejected from their strongholds in Syria and Iraq, in Afghanistan and even Pakistan. They are without a state sponsor as yet and threaten all regional powers. Hopefully no one will start using them in the “Great Game” in the region. Can all regional powers sink their differences to counter them?

India-Pakistan relations remain bogged in mutual recrimination. The Narendra Modi-Ajit Doval doctrine of no dialogue till support to terror ends is unrealistic. At best, Pakistan should be held accountable for attacks traceable to its state agencies. Otherwise the veto on India-Pakistan relations passes into the hands of any single jihadi who is willing to die.

Unfortunately, popularly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been decapitated by judicial writ. Pakistan is already in electoral mode with parliamentary elections due next year.

Mr Modi faces a crucial Gujarat Assembly election soon, and may even be forced to call early Lok Sabha elections if the economy does not rebound or a bad monsoon is anticipated.

Thus, bilateral ties in the foreseeable future will be run by hawks on both sides. Afghanistan can be the greatest confidence-builder between the two nations, or the theatre of extreme offshore rivalry.

The Trump administration will soon realise that no Afghan/Pakistan policy will work unless all regional powers honestly cooperate. The US President’s next visit abroad is to China, Japan and Republic of Korea, with its focus likely to be on containing North Korea with its nuclear weapons.

Mr Trump needs to rebalance his approach to South and West Asia if his Afghan policy has to work. Otherwise, ironically, the creator of radical Islamist forces to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan will find the roles reversed, with the Russians using the Taliban to undermine the US in Afghanistan.

The Indians may act likewise if they see Pakistan gaining control over the new US Afghan doctrine. The moral is that while tweets can entertain or provoke, they cannot really resolve geostrategic riddles.

The writer is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry
He tweets at @ambkcsingh – Sikh political prisoner Bhai Lakhwinder Singh released on 42 day parole

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 18 October 2017. Sikh political prisoner Bhai Lakhwinder Singh Lakha was released on parole for 42 days on October 17 from the Burail jail. Bhai Lakha is serving life sentence in assassination case of former Chief Minister Beant “Singh”. He was received by Sikh activist Bhai Jang Singh outside the Burail jail.

Speaking to Sikh24, Bhai Lakha informed that he has been granted parole to on the eve of Diwali. “Khalsa is in chardi kala, what else is there to say,” said Bhai Lakha when asked about his well-being. He said that Sikh political prisoners are strong in their spirit even after being jailed for decades.

Bhai Lakhwinder Singh is one of the political prisoners whose permanent release is being sought by Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa. Sikh political prisoners are under immense pressure not to support the hunger protest initiated in January 2015 in Hassanpur. Since Bapu Surat Singh went on hunger strike, Bhai Lakhwinder Singh has been released on parole a number of times.

Bloemekenswijk – Profundo programme & Walking to Dampoort

Profundo programme
Moskee Tevhid Camii
09 October 2017

The last picture of the Profundo programme at the Ferrerlaan Mosque and the Maisstraat Church

Walking to Dampoort
10 October 2017

Frietenkot – Vlaamse Kaai
I walked along the railway line and over the locks to the Vlaamse Kaai

Frietenkot – Vlaamse Kaai

Jan Delvinlaan – Bus 6 to Bijloke


To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

FirstPost – Indians missing in Iraq: Families asked to provide DNA samples to Amritsar’s government medical college

Chandigarh, 21 October 2017. The families of the 39 Indians who went missing in Iraq’s Mosul in June 2014 have been asked to provide their DNA samples, but no reason has been given, the kin said on Saturday.

The families of some of the missing Indians from Amritsar district were on Saturday asked to come to the Government Medical College in Amritsar to give DNA samples. However, the samples were not taken on Saturday.

“We were told to come to the Government Medical College and provide DNA samples, We have no idea why this is being done. We have not been told anything. We got a message from the SDM office regarding this,” Sarwan Singh, whose brother is among the 39 missing Indians, said.

The families have been asked to come back on Monday to provide the DNA samples.

“No one from the administration is telling us why the DNA samples are being collected,” a woman relative of one of the missing men said.

It has been over three years that 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, went missing in Iraq’s Mosul town when it was overrun by the Islamic State. Their families continue to swing between the hope of the men being found alive and fear that they will hear the worst.

After Mosul was freed from the clutches of the Islamic State in July, there was hope that the missing Indians will be found. However, Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, during his India visit in July, said he was not sure if the men were alive or not.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier assured the families, who have met her several times, that all efforts were being made to trace the missing men, who had been held hostage in Iraq’s Mosul town by terror outfit Islamic State in June 2014.

The affected families, who are all from poor backgrounds mostly from rural areas of Punjab, say they can do nothing else but pin hope on the government’s and the minister’s assurances.

A man from Punjab, Harjit Masih, who escaped from the clutches of IS in June 2014 had claimed that all 39 Indians had been killed.

However, Sushma Swaraj has maintained that there was no information confirming that the Indians were dead.

Dawn – ‘Missing’ journalist Zeenat Shahzadi recovered after more than 2 years

Lahore, 20 October 2017. Zeenat Shahzadi, the journalist who went missing in Lahore in 2015, has been recovered by security forces, officials said on Friday.

Retired Justice Javed Iqbal, head of the missing persons commission, confirmed Shahzadi’s return while speaking to BBC Urdu. She was recovered on Wednesday night from near the Pakistan-Afghan border, Iqbal said.

The newly appointed National Accountability Bureau chief said that some non-state actors and enemy agencies had kidnapped her and she was recovered from them, adding that tribal elders in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa played an important role in her recovery.

Shahzadi’s family has yet to issue a statement.

Shahzadi, who raised her voice for victims of disappearance, went missing in August 2015 while on the trail of an Indian citizen Hamid Ansari reported to have been caught by Pakistani agencies. She had filed an application with the Supreme Court’s Human Rights Cell on behalf of Fauzia Ansari, Hamid’s mother.

According to one version, Hamid was pursuing a Pakistani woman whom he had befriended on the Internet.

The application was accepted and forwarded to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances.

A few months later, news surfaced in a section of the media, saying that Hamid had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on charges of espionage. According to some rights campaigners, Hamid has served his sentence and ought to be set free now.

Human rights activist Hina Jillani, in a 2016 interview with BBC Urdu, alleged that Shahzadi had once told her family that she had been “forcibly taken away by security agencies”, detained for four hours and questioned about Hamid.

The disappearance of Shahzadi hit headlines once again in 2016 when her brother, Saddam Hussain, committed suicide in March that year. His elder brother, Salman, had told Dawn that the teenage boy was emotionally attached to his missing sister and very much disturbed by her mysterious disappearance.