The Hindu – ‘Requisite political will’ needed to take action against Saeed: India

“We have consistently maintained that a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan is only possible in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.”

New Delhi, 02 February 2017. India on Thursday dismissed Pakistan’s demand for “concrete evidence” against JuD chief Hafiz Saeed in the 26/11 case, saying the required proof is already available in that country as the entire conspiracy was hatched there and all it needs to find is “requisite” political will to take action.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also said India would not go by the claims or statements made by Pakistan about the steps taken to check terrorism but by what happens on the ground.

“Entire conspiracy for the Mumbai attack was hatched in Pakistan. All the terrorists came from Pakistan. All the planning was done in Pakistan. All the support was rendered by Pakistan. So, all the evidence to implicate the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack is already available in Pakistan.

“In fact, Hafiz Saeed has himself confessed to masterminding multiple terrorists attacks directed at India.

So the concrete evidence that Pakistan establishment is looking for is already available in Pakistan. All they need to find is requisite political will,” Mr. Swarup said.

He was asked about the statement of a Pakistan Interior Ministry Spokesperson that “If indeed India is serious about its allegations, it should come up with concrete evidence against Hafiz Saeed which is sustainable in court of law in Pakistan or for that matter anywhere in the world” and that mere casting aspersions and levelling allegations without any corroborating evidence would not help.

Saeed and four other JuD leaders, Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Niaz, were put under house arrest after an order was issued by Punjab Province’s Interior Ministry on Monday in pursuance to a directive from the Federal Interior Ministry on 27 January.

The Pakistani Spokesperson also maintained that the actions taken by Pakistan have been carried out as per obligations vis-a-vis listing of JuD under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.

On the recent release of Chandu Babulal Chavan and if this indicated softening of Pakistan’s stand that could lead to resumption of bilateral dialogue, Swarup said India welcomes the steps taken by Pakistan on humanitarian matters.

“We have consistently maintained that a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan is only possible in an atmosphere free of terror and violence. Any credible steps in that direction will certainly be welcomed by India,” he said.

He added, “We will not go by their (Pakistan’s) claims and statements. We will go by what we will see on the ground. At the end of the day, that is what matters.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/%E2%80%98Requisite-political-will%E2%80%99-needed-to-take-action-against-Saeed-India/article17140650.ece

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BBC News – Why has India’s Punjab fallen into the grip of drug abuse?

The northern Indian state of Punjab votes on Saturday for a new government. But the biggest issue confronting voters is not jobs or corruption, but a drugs epidemic that is sweeping the state.

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder travelled there to find out why one of India’s most prosperous states is in danger of losing an entire generation to drug abuse.

Panjab, 2 February 2017. “This is him when he was in his first grade. He had just won a school competition.”

Mukhtiar Singh smiles wistfully as he shows me a faded picture of his son Manjit, from a family album.

“In my wildest dreams I could not imagine what was to happen to him.”

Manjit, 28, died in June last year because of a drug overdose. His father, a worker in the government’s power department, marched through the streets of his village carrying his son’s body, and then addressed a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I told the prime minister he needed to step in to save Punjab’s youth from drugs. Our children are dying and nothing is being done.”

Seven months later, Mr Singh is battling to highlight Punjab’s alarming drugs problem.

A recent government study suggests that more than 860,000 young men in the state, between the ages of 15-35, take some form of drugs.

Heroin is the most preferred, used by 53% of all addicts. But opium and synthetic drugs such as crystal methamphetamine are also common.

“My mission is to save Punjab’s youth,” Mr Singh tells me as we sit on the roof of his modest two-room home. “I have carried my son’s body on my shoulders. It’s something I don’t want any other parent to experience.”

Easily available

It is astonishing how widespread the problem is. One estimate says that more than two-thirds of Punjab’s households have at least one addict in the family.

Across the state, from villages in the lush green countryside to bustling towns and cities, young men huddle together in cemeteries, abandoned buildings or plain fields, smoking, snorting or shooting up.

Tarn Taran, a district located along the border with Pakistan is one of the worst affected.

In the main town’s civil hospital, which also serves as a centre to fight addiction, young men with glazed eyes hang around.

In the space of 20 minutes, I see a number of transactions unfold in full public view. They are approached by peddlers, money swiftly exchanges hands before a little packet is handed over.

The men then slink away behind a wall.

Beyond it is a derelict building, surrounded by rubbish and reeking of urine. Strewn all around are used syringes and broken bottles of prescription medicines.

“It’s ridiculously easily available,” Jasprit Singh tells me.

Jasprit, who is from Tarn Taran, used to be an addict, but says that he has been clean for the past four years.

“Heroin, synthetic drugs, you name it, I’ve done it all. When I scored for the first time, I felt as if I was experiencing something wonderful,” he says.

“I felt like something had been missing from my life until then.”

He now works at the same rehab centre where he underwent his recovery programme, counselling drug addicts.

“I tell them that if I can give up drugs, anyone can.”

The Hermitage rehab centre is housed in an impressive two-storey building set amid lush green lawns. Inmates, called students not patients, receive counselling, psychiatric and medical treatment here.

It’s one of hundreds of rehab centres that have sprung up across the state in the past few years.

The inmates come from a variety of backgrounds. They include judges, police officials, pop musicians, students and quite a few women.

“The women are the most difficult to treat,” the institute’s director, J P S Bhatia, says.

“Many of them are abandoned by their families. Most have been sexually molested when they try and seek help, by unscrupulous counsellors and doctors, even the police.”

Punjab’s proximity to Afghanistan and Pakistan, with which it shares a border, has meant that it’s a major transit route in the lucrative drug smuggling trade. That’s one reason why heroin is so readily available.

But why are its youth so susceptible? Drug consumption in Punjab is three times the national average.

Agriculture, which brought the state its wealth, is stagnating and with little industrialisation there is high unemployment.

And in the 1980s, Punjab was in the grip of a violent separatist militancy which has now ebbed but has left its scars.

“We got rid of terrorism only for it to be replaced with narcotics-terrorism,” says Dr Bhatia.

“And we just have not been prepared to deal with it or even come to terms with the problems faced by our youth.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-38824478

The Tribune – Blast toll 6, National Security Guards (NSG) helping in probe

Gurdeep Singh Mann & Nikhila Pant Dhawan, Tribune News Service

Maur, Bathinda, Panjab, 01 February 2017. Punjab DGP Suresh Arora today visited the site of the twin blasts at Maur Mandi that took place a few metres from where Congress candidate Harminder Jassi had addressed a rally late Tuesday evening. Jassi escaped with minor bruises.

Arora, who ordered a bullet-proof vehicle for Jassi, said forensic experts and bomb squad teams of the National Security Guards (NSG) were helping the Punjab Police to determine the nature of the explosives used and get to the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, the blast toll has risen from three to six. Among the dead are Jassi’s aide Harpal Singh Pali (40), Ashok Kumar (35) and his daughter Barkha Rani (7), Saurav Singla (13), Ripandeep Singh (9) and Jap Simran Singh (26). All business establishments in Maur Mandi remained shut today.

Arora spent three hours in the town. “The Maruti in which the explosives were kept bore a fake number plate of a 1996 model scooter registered in Zira,” he said, claiming the police would crack the case in a day or two. He said they suspected the role of the Babbar Khalsa.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/community/blast-toll-6-nsg-helping-in-probe/358439.html

Sikhi Camp – Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara

Sikhi Camp – Gent Gurdwara
December 2016

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All to walk with spoon in mouth and small ball on the spoon

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Our friend

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Fakirs doing levitation ?

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More to jump up and down

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Jaswal Singh & Son
Pyar Kaur and baby

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Address by Gurdial Singh France

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Human Rights Without Frontiers International – Pakistan PM premature in saying country will soon be ‘minority-friendly’

World Watch Monitor, 31 December 2016. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has said “the day is not far off when Pakistan will internationally be known as a minority-friendly country”.

Meanwhile, a Senate Committee has been set up to debate how “to prevent the country’s blasphemy laws being applied unfairly, despite opposition from religious conservatives”.

It has unearthed a 24-year-old report, which contains proposals for modifications, and Senator Farhat Ullah Babar says this would be the first time ever that a parliamentary body is to consider a formal proposal on how to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy laws.

Despite this, the Finance Minister on 28 Jan re-iterated that the blasphemy law could never be changed, saying: “Pakistan was the only country whose foundation was laid on Islam.”

And the same party that announced the new committee, the Pakistan People’s Party, has at the last minute withdrawn its Minority Protection Bill, due to come into force in the south-eastern province of Sindh, which borders India and so has many Hindus.

The bill, which prohibited forced religious conversions or even wilful conversions for those under the age of 18, had been passed in November, but was followed by protests by Islamic political parties. Police protection had to be provided for the parliamentarians who worked on the bill.

In October, the National Assembly had adopted a resolution, presented by Hindu parliamentarian Lal Chand Malhi, “urging the government to take necessary steps to stop forced religious conversions and marriages of women belonging to minorities”.

Hindus in Sindh have long decried many of their young girls being forcibly converted to Islam. (The abduction of Hindu girl, Rinkle Kumari in 2012 became international news, though the apex court of Pakistan ruled that she had not been forced to convert).

After the PPP backtracked on its own bill, Hindu parliamentarian Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, of the ruling PML-N party, told World Watch Monitor that the PPP President had “caved in to religious elements” after meeting with the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic political party.

“The Hindu community has been further made vulnerable by this move and its consequences will be devastating,” he added. The bill had passed unanimously and needed only ceremonial approval by the governor.

Christians in Pakistan are closely watching developments in Sindh for the implications for them in Punjab and elsewhere. That’s because the Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has recently said that any belief that religious minorities in Pakistan are suffering because of the blasphemy laws is unfounded.

He explained to the Senate House that data from Sindh proved that, of 129 cases of blasphemy registered in total, 99 cases were registered against Muslims. This meant that 76% of the total convictions were against Muslims.

In response to a question by PPP parliamentarian Beelum Hasnain, Mr. Khan said: “The facts and figures reveal that, in most blasphemy cases, the accused were Muslims. They point towards the fact that religious minorities are not being embroiled in blasphemy cases more than Muslims.”

However, his statement does not take into account the fact that religious minorities are disproportionately accused of blasphemy: some say 15% are Christians, when they only form around 2% of the population, and more Christians live in Punjab than any other province.

And in Punjab, 49 of those accused of blasphemy since 1990 have so far been killed outside the judicial process, according to the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad.

External analysts are cautious about the realistic prospects of the blasphemy law being reviewed. Thomas Muller, an analyst for World Watch Research, notes: “There have been countless efforts to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws or at least to limit their devastating consequences, which particularly affect the country’s religious minorities.

But until now, radical groups have always proved stronger, at times even killing politicians they deemed too outspoken. It remains to be seen whether these commendable political initiatives will survive the opposition, most likely violent, which can be expected from the ranks of the radical Islamic groups in the country.”

http://bit.ly/2kQ11u4

To read the full article :

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Pakistan2017.pdf

Dawn – India’s objection to a Pakistani secretary general may hurt Saarc

Dawn Staff Reporter

Islamabad, 01 February 2017. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), beleaguered by internal rifts, is headed for more difficult days ahead as India is attempting to block on ‘procedural grounds’ the appointment of a Pakistani diplomat as the next secretary general of the regional body.

The Saarc secretariat can, therefore, potentially remain a headless body for a long time if the stalemate prolongs and the dispute is not resolved soon. The Pakistani turn, which is held by rotation, starts from March 1, 2017 and continues till Feb 28, 2020.

Amjad Hussain Sial is a career diplomat who has been nominated by Pakistan as the 13th secretary general of Saarc.

This is the first time in Saarc’s troubled history that it is moving towards a standoff over the secretary general’s appointment.

Amjad Hussain Sial, a career diplomat, had been nominated by Pakistan as the 13th secretary general of Saarc to replace the outgoing top official of Kathmandu-based Saarc secretariat Arjun Bahadur Thapa, whose tenure expires on 28 February.

Mr Sial’s nomination was made at the Saarc Council of Ministers in Pokhara (Nepal) in March 2016 and was endorsed by all member states.

New Delhi, however, through a diplomatic note last month asked the secretariat to adhere to the “due working procedures” in the appointment of Mr Thapa’s successor.

In this regard it pointed towards Article V of the MoU on the establishment of the Saarc secretariat, which details the procedure for the appointment of the secretary general and under which the appointment has to be approved by the Saarc Council of Ministers comprising foreign ministers of the member states.

The Indian position is that the nomination had to be ratified by the Council of Ministers meeting in Islamabad, which could not happen due to postponement of the summit after India and several of its regional allies pulled out of the meeting.

Pakistani officials, meanwhile, accuse India of employing “delaying tactics”. They insist that concurrence had been received from all members, including India. A copy of an Indian diplomatic note dated May 30, 2016 conveying its concurrence to Mr Sial’s appointment as secretary general was also shared with Dawn.

New Delhi, the officials say, is now unnecessarily raising issues over the appointment.

Receipt of concurrence to Mr Sial’s appointment from all eight member states was notified by the Saarc secretariat on 8 September 2016.

Relations between Islamabad and New Delhi nosedived last year due to the aggravating situation in India-held Kashmir. India later accused a Pakistan-based group of attacking one of its military camps in Uri and also withdrew from the summit being hosted by Pakistan in November on the pretext of “cross-border terrorist attacks”.

The regional organisation has long been held hostage to the intense Pakistan-India rivalry although its charter explicitly disallows bringing regional disputes to the forum.

Indian leadership does not unequivocally say it, but a sub-regional transport agreement and statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicate that India is working towards a regional bloc minus Pakistan. Furthermore, by isolating Pakistan, India is trying to gain maximum leverage and influence in the region.

Pakistan, besides its large territorial size, has been an active member of Saarc and is currently contributing 24 per cent of the secretariat’s budget.

Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in his meeting with outgoing Saarc Secretary General Thapa last week said India impeded the Saarc process and violated the spirit of the Saarc Charter.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1311965/indias-objection-to-a-pakistani-secretary-general-may-hurt-saarc