BBC News – Afghanistan: At least 17 killed in Khost mosque blast

Khost – Afghanistan, 6 May 2018. At least 17 people have been killed and 37 wounded in an explosion at a mosque in the Afghan province of Khost, local officials say.

People had gathered for afternoon prayers at the mosque, which was also being used as a voter registration centre.

Some of the injured are said to be in a critical condition.

No group has claimed responsibility but the Islamic State group has carried out similar attacks in the past.

The latest incident appears to have been caused by explosives left in the mosque, rather than by a suicide bomber.

There have been a number of attacks on voter registration centres since the process started last month for October’s parliamentary elections.

On 22 April, a suicide bomb attack at a voter registration centre in the capital Kabul killed at least 57 people.

The Kabul attack was claimed by IS, but the Taliban has also warned people not to take part in the elections, which are said to be a key test of President Ashraf Ghani’s credibility.

In another development, police in the province of Baghlan say that seven Indian engineers and their Afghan driver, working for an electricity provider, were kidnapped by the Taliban on Sunday morning.

A police spokesman, Zabihullah Shuja, told the BBC that they were travelling to a government-run power station in Pul-e Khomri, the capital of the northern province. – Bhai Amrik Singh Chandigarh Attacked By Hooligans at Park Avenue Gurdwara in Southall

Sikh24 Editors

London – UK, 08 May 2018. Kathakar Bhai Amrik Singh Chandigarh was attacked at Southall’s Park Avenue Gurdwara on May 7.

Sikh24 has learned that as Bhai Amrik Singh was about to start katha, he faced opposition by some people present in the sangat who refused to let him speak. Seeing the opposition, Bhai Amrik Singh agreed to not do katha. While he was stepping down from the stage, some hooligans attacked him and removed his dastar.

“I have been told that Bhai Amrik Singh was called out before he started to do the katha, and was beaten up, his turban was removed and Mr Malhi instead of telling the perpetrators off, asked Bhai Amrik Singh to apologise,” Sikh24 was told by a source who refused to be identified.

“On his refusal, he was told that he will not be allowed to do katha in any of the Gurdwaras in UK. No report to the police has been filed. We haven’t verified yet with Mr Malhi,” he added.

Gurmail Singh Malhi is the main sevadar (Pardhan) of the Park Avenue Gurdwara.

So far, Bhai Amrik Singh Chandigarh has refused to make any public statement. A group which self-proclaims itself as the “Dharamyudh Jatha – Damdami Taksal” led by Baba Charan Singh (Tividale) is being believed to be main perpetrator.

The group had posted a message on their official Facebook page, later deleting the post. Sikh24 had earlier done an expose of this fringe group in the UK.

Gent Profundo Programme and VOEM AGM

Profundo School Visits

VPK United Protestant Church
20 March 2018

No other pictures or statues in the church
This picture narrates a Biblical story

Students listening to the minister (dominee)

20 March 2018

After a full day with students, attending a meeting

Profundo School Visits

Herberg Macharius
22 March 2018

Students listening (some more than others)

Some were tired

Girls show more interest than boys on average

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Gent Nagar Kirtan – Annual Sikh Parade 19 May 2018

We will start at 12:00 from the Gurdwara, Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
Arrival at the Botermarkt at about 13:00, where we will stay till about 16:00

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
9050 Gent – Oost Vlaanderen

Published in: on May 8, 2018 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Dawn – Curbs on thinking

Huma Yusuf

Op/Ed, 07 May 2018. It is no secret that our university campuses have become spaces of intimidation rather than debate, censorship rather than critical thinking. Panel discussions are cancelled, speakers are forced off campuses, student events are disrupted by mobs, professors who encourage engagement are fired.

The threats to critical thinking and debate come from many sources: so-called ‘state functionaries’, student wings of religious political parties, firebrand students wielding blasphemy charges, politicised academics, complicit university administrators, and even right-wing media commentators who name and shame educational institutions, forcing them to go on the defensive and resort to self-censorship in lieu of jeopardising students’ safety from mobs.

The range of issues deemed too sensitive to debate grows every day. Beyond academic debate on matters of national security and foreign policy, discussions on culture, history, law, constitutionality and even science are increasingly perceived as too sensitive.

Opportunities for debate are cancelled both by authoritarians for fear of what might be said, but also by the academically inclined for fear of the violent reaction that genuine debate may provoke.

How is the next generation meant to learn how to think?

And this is the fate of those who dare to speak, to engage, to question. The ranks of those who no longer bother, who opt for silence and safety over debate and danger is growing.

A new report from Media Matters for Democracy, a Pakistan-based, not-for-profit initiative, on the practice of self-censorship among Pakistani journalists found that 79 per cent of respondents had self-censored their personal expression online and in the company of strangers (aside from the routine self-censorship required in a professional context).

One can imagine that these statistics among university students would be similar.

The demise of debate, and the critical thinking it necessitates, on university campuses is especially problematic because Pakistan’s youth don’t have access to other spaces where they can engage their minds.

According to the excellent Pakistan National Human Development Report on youth released last week, 85pc of young Pakistanis do not have access to the internet, and a shocking 94pc do not have access to a library. How is the next generation meant to learn how to think?

The various groups cracking down on academic debate think that by enforcing silence they enhance their power and, eventually, wrangle the public’s consent and compliance. Terrifyingly, they are right.

If you suck ideas and opposing viewpoints out of circulation, at first, they live on behind closed doors, then they start to seem irrelevant, and ultimately, they cease to exist.

And what takes their place, in our case, conspiracy theories, paranoia, fanaticism, sectarian and ethnic hostility, is taken for truth, and not recognised as the pressure tactic that was its first incarnation.

In the short run, widespread censorship does result in a pliant population. The silencing that the Zia generation endured explains the attractiveness of hare-brained conspiracy theories today. Pliant populations are also easier to govern.

People who are intimidated into silence in one arena of their life will be placid in others too. Students who watch every word they utter on campus are unlikely to become entitled citizens demanding service delivery, human rights and state accountability.

But this conception has one major flaw, it is underpinned by an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. Censorship and the stifling of debate require an elite who decides what can and cannot be said, and a public that complies.

There is an uncomfortable power dynamic here, a division of the polity into those who can use critical thinking skills to manipulate debate and knowledge and those who are not entitled to anything beyond obeisance.

How short-sighted, then, are those who seek to silence? Today’s students are that elite of tomorrow. By stifling critical thinking on campus, we are ensuring a future in which Pakistan has corps commanders, parliamentarians, judges, senior bureaucrats, CEOs, police chiefs and doctors who are incapable of sophisticated reasoning.

These are the people who will have to plan the country’s economic trajectory and allocate increasingly scarce resources. They will have to negotiate trade and defence deals on behalf of our country.

They will have to engage in diplomacy on the world stage. They will have to win business. They will have to keep Pakistan safe. And they will have to train the generation that comes after them.

To do any of these things, you need to think critically, engage with and process facts, identify alternative possibilities, and reason or negotiate with people on the other side of the table.

If all you know is the power of brute force, if your comfort zone is that of censorship, authoritarianism, silence and complicity, then you are not fit to do any of the things needed to help a country and a society prosper. As such, today’s silence is being bought at the expense of Pakistan’s future. Is it really worth that much?

The writer is a freelance journalist.
Twitter: @humayusuf