Tolo News – President Ashraf Ghani fails to tackle corruption, investigation shows

President Ashraf Ghani promised to root out corruption in public office; however, Afghanistan is still among most corrupt countries in the world

Tamim Hamid

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 08 September 2018. During his 2014 presidential campaign, President Ashraf Ghani vowed to overcome corruption during his term in office and said he would ensure the country’s ranking on the corruption index improved.

An investigation by TOLO news however shows that Afghanistan has not improved.

In one of his election campaign speeches in the run up to 2014 polls, Ghani said: “Wait, in two years instead of being accused of being the worst country in corruption, we will rise at least 100 points (on the global index).”

In some cases, he made even more ambitious promises on fighting corruption.

“Corruption is widespread. We hope that we reduce it by 50 percent within the next five years. It cannot be reduced 100 percent. Anyone who says this to you, he lies,” Ghani said in a TV debate during his election campaign.

At the time Afghanistan was ranked 172nd in the world in terms of corruption. In 2015 it rose to 166th position, in 2016 it dropped to 169 and last year it was at a dismal 177 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perspective Index.

And this out of 180 countries.

Fingers have been pointed at the National Unity Government by analysts and MPs with some saying not enough has been done to stamp out the problem.

“Efforts against corruption have not been done in the way that the people of Afghanistan expected. Today, too, corruption is widespread in government offices and different organisations,” said Fatima Aziz, an MP.

Meanwhile, the results of a survey carried out by Integrity Watch every two years, shows that the volume of minor corruption incidents totaled a whopping $2.9 billion in 2016 while this figure was $2 billion in 2014 and a lot less in 2010 and 2012.

“The National Unity Government was afraid of establishing the independent anti-corruption commission which could make efforts non-political and independent. Unfortunately, it used its resources to prevent the embellishment of such a commission,” said Naser Temori, a researcher at Integrity Watch Afghanistan.

The Tribune – Simranjit Singh Mann acquitted in sedition case

Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib – Panjab – India, 08 September 2018. The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge RK Vashisht on Saturday acquitted Simranjit Singh Mann, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president, in a sedition case registered 12 years ago by the then Congress government led by CM Captain Amarinder Singh.

The case had been registered under Sections 124-A, 153A, 153B and 505 of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly raising the issue of Khalistan, said Gurpreet Singh Saini, Mann’s lawyer. The action had been taken after getting permission from the Union Home Ministry.

Talking to mediapersons, Mann said 12 years ago the then Congress government had registered the sedition case against him for raising the issue of Khalistan on the complaint of Pritpal Singh Virk, Superintendent of Police (Detective), presently lodged in a jail in another case, allegedly on political grounds.

Later, the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government presented a challan in the court, just to please the Hindu community and get votes, the former MP alleged.

He said the court had finally acquitted him of the charges, but he had to face great mental agony for 12 years. He would file a defamation suit against Captain Amarinder Singh, Parkash Singh Badal and Home Department officials so that no one would dare to file false cases in future.

Gent: De Krook – Sint-Pieters NMBS station – Braemkasteel De Lijn

De Krook
24 July 2018

Bridge fom De Krook to Brabantdam

24 July 2018

Waiting for the train to Leuven via Mechelen

Although this train is advertised as an IC,
it really is a semi-direct

A very polite train …

Detailing the facilities on offer at Sint-Pieters

Gentbrugge Braemkasteel
28 July 2018

Braemkasteel – Gentbrugge Stelplaats

I messed up the sequence of the pictures
We jumped back to 20 July and will return to August
in due course.
Man in Blue

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian and Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

India Today – Sikhs for Justice announces campaign in Kartarpur, move raises security concerns

Anand Patel

New Delhi – India, 09 September 2018. Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), the US-based NGO leading the secessionist movement ‘Referendum 2020’ for Punjab has announced that it will campaign during the 550th celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev birth anniversary in Kartarpur, Pakistan.

The announcement comes within days of new Pakistan government’s offer of free visa for Sikh pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Gurdwara which is the final resting place of the first Sikh Guru.

During his visit to Islamabad to participate in swearing-in ceremony of new prime minister Imran Khan, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu had divulged that the Pakistan army chief is willing to consider a corridor to Kartapur.

Last week, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had met PM Modi to discuss Kartarpur corridor issue. Union Home Ministry has already alerted Punjab government over the renewed efforts by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to revive terrorism in the state.

Legal advisor for SFJ Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in a press statement on Saturday announced that it will campaign to gather support for the referendum at Kartarpur during the celebrations.

SFJ has been under the watch of Indian security agencies after its London rally in August in support of Referendum 2020. Indian government had strongly protested against the UK government permitting SFJ to hold anti-India rally in London.

Security concerns

The announcement by SFJ to campaign during the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur could raise serious security concerns for Indian and Punjab government since lakhs of Sikhs from all over the world are expected to converge at one of their most sacred pilgrim sites.

Apart from the Pakistan army’s offer of creating a corridor for the Sikh pilgrims to Kartapur which is barely 3 km from Indian border, the new Pakistan government has offered free visas for the Indian nationals for the event which will be held next year.

The anti-India NGO has announced to hold polling for referendum in major cities of North America, Europe, Australia, Middle East and Punjab.

Dawn – Inclusive Pakistan

Muhammad Amir Rana

Op/Ed, 09 September 2018. After the despicable Gojra riots in Punjab’s Faisalabad district that targeted Christians living in the area, a few Muslim scholars attempted to grapple with the issue of constitutionalism in Pakistan.

The disturbances had badly damaged the country’s image. It was 2009 when Pakistan faced the maximum number of attacks for any year. The scholars were trying to understand how a country with such an inclusive Constitution could suffer some of the worst forms of religious bigotry.

The debates put forth many explanations, from how the state’s strategic priorities had backfired to how a hostile regional environment was fuelling bigotry.

Some weighed in on the ideological aspect of extremism, and others on how it goes unchecked amid the civil-military divide. However, the debates failed to fully present the reasons behind the exclusive nature of Pakistani society.

In totality, nevertheless, the discussion exposed the dichotomies and paradoxes in our social milieu. The state and society are largely caught between modernisation and conservatism: an average Pakistani wants to be progressive but within a conservative framework.

The state desires to stand tall in the international community, but without reforming its institutions.

Certain religious leaders and groups are pushing society towards chaos

This paradox produces dichotomous behaviour. One can take complete U-turns without compromising on one’s previous position.

This is the syndrome the new government is manifesting: after taking a firm position on a particular economist’s appointment as a member of the Economic Advisory Council, the government reversed the decision after his Ahmadi background became an issue.

The reversal has exposed the government’s fear of religious hardliners. While such decisions are often depicted as political pragmatism, they weaken the state and society in the long run.

To satisfy its own conscience, the state sometimes takes initiatives that give an impression as if it has decided to break with the past and move towards an inclusive society.

A similar attempt was made early this year in the shape of the Paigham-i-Pakistan (message of Pakistan), a counter-narrative declaration or fatwa against increasing religious intolerance and violence.

A unanimous declaration by 1,800 religious scholars across the country, the Paigham-i-Pakistan was projected as a reflection of the Pakistani state and society’s collective thinking, and prepared in accordance with the injunctions of the Holy Quran, the Sunnah and the Constitution.

Following this, the security institutions launched a countrywide awareness campaign in educational institutions about Paigham, which was presented as a blueprint of an inclusive Pakistan.

Interestingly, a few banned organisations tried to hijack the declaration. Their leadership was not only present at the launch of the declaration held at President House, but even at organised seminars to spread the ‘message’.

It might seem a positive development that banned sectarian and militant organisations became the Paigham-i-Pakistan’s custodians.

However, it proved counterproductive, as opponent sectarian groups outright rejected the document, labelling it an attempt to provide safe passage to those banned organisations, which were under severe pressure at the time.

The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is among those which have not endorsed the Paigham-i-Pakistan. Many believed that banned groups like Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Jamaatud Dawa were using it to acquire legitimacy in the public domain.

So far, the Paigham-i-Pakistan has failed to create any significant impact.

As far as the contents of the declaration are concerned, it seems very comprehensive and well argued. For example, it talks about the reconstruction of Pakistani society and says: “Pakistanis neither demean other religions nor humiliate the founders of other religions.

It is imperative for Muslims to bring others towards Islam only through convincing argumentation while practising their own religion independently and freely.” The Paigham also endorses the constitutional clauses on religious freedom and declares them as being in accordance with the basic principles of Islam.

It says: “All citizens are guaranteed fundamental rights within the parameters of law and ethics. These rights include equality in status and opportunities, equality before the law, socioeconomic and political justice, the rights of expression, belief, worship and freedom of assembly.”

Similarly, the declaration condemns sectarian hatred, armed sectarian conflict and the imposition of one’s ideology on others by force.

The religious scholars who signed the declaration pledged they would work for a society based on the principles of democracy, liberty, equality, tolerance, harmony, mutual respect and justice to achieve a congenial atmosphere for peaceful coexistence.

Describing the context of the declaration, the Paigham-i-Pakistan claims that maximum legislation according to Islamic teachings and principles has taken place in this country.

However, the religious clergy is still reluctant to adopt the document as a manual for their mosques and madressahs. As mentioned earlier, controversies created by a few religious groups have also compromised Paigham-i-Pakistan, reflecting the religious clergy’s narrow vision.

Pakistan has fought a successful war against terrorism, but it is unfortunate that many religious leaders and groups have given a sectarian colour to the war, saying it was against particular sects. This narrative has provided political and social space to new radical forces in the country.

It has also empowered new hate narratives against minority sects, communities, and religions. These leaders and groups have nurtured a new blend of extremism, while state institutions remain in tactical denial where it comes to countering the terrorists’ anti-Pakistan arguments.

Pakistan is caught in a vicious cycle of extremism, where state institutions and leaderships have become hostage to hate narratives. Certain religious leaders and groups are pushing society towards chaos. The state wants to both maintain the status quo and control the chaos, but its strategies have not proved effective yet.

On the societal level, the situation is even worse and often takes the form of discrimination against weak religious communities. While militant violence is condemned, the underlying mindset, especially where it pertains to people of different faiths, is rarely addressed.

This makes faith-based discrimination seem like a pervasive phenomenon, not restricted to any one class, ethnicity, educational background, or group; so much so that even the solutions to such issues are deemed controversial in nature.

The state is hesitant to control religious hatred. Deep-rooted hate narratives have developed a majoritarian mindset, which creates insecurity among the very tiny religious minorities. Even ‘naya Pakistan’ has not yet shown the courage to break the vicious cycle of this hatred.

The writer is a security analyst