BBC News – India under fire as it deports Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

India has deported seven Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar, despite last-minute appeals that doing so put them at risk.

New Delhi – India, 04 October 2018. The men had been detained since 2012 for immigration violations. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court refused to step in to stop their deportation.

At least 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar in the past year.

UN officials have accused Myanmar’s military of ethnic cleansing. The army says it has been tackling insurgents.

The Rohingya are one of many ethnic minorities in Myanmar, where the government sees them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and denies them citizenship.

The seven men deported on Thursday had been interred in a detention centre in India’s Assam state. They were handed over at the Moreh border crossing in neighbouring Manipur state.

“These are Myanmarese nationals whose identities have been confirmed by their government. The government given them travel permits,” L S Changsan, a senior Assam official, told the BBC’s Vineet Khare.

The UN special rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, said India risked breaching its international legal obligations by returning the men to possible harm.

“Given the ethnic identity of the men, this is a flagrant denial of their right to protection,” she told AFP news agency.

These are among the first deportations of Rohingyas from India since deadly attacks on police in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 sparked a military offensive.

Officials in India say two Rohingya men were sent back in August – but this has not been confirmed by Myanmar.

Last year India announced it would deport its entire Rohingya population, thought to number about 40,000. This number includes some 18,000 Rohingya registered as refugees by the UN.

Despite the international pressure on Myanmar, India is actively pursuing a good relationship with the country’s army officials.

Correspondents say India hopes to enlist their help in acting against militants in India’s north-east, many of whom are based in Myanmar’s jungles.

India’s government also aims to grow its influence in Southeast Asia to counter China’s increasing presence in the region. – Haryana Chief Minister forced to cancel visit to Sikh dominated village in Haryana

Sikh24 Editors

Dabri – Haryana – India, 04 October 2018. As Sikhs of Dabri village in Karnal announced the plan to protest Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s address, he was forced to cancel his scheduled address there.

Khattar was scheduled to address a programme at Dabri during his road show programme in six villages of Karnal district. However, as Sikhs announced to protest his visit, his office announced that Khattar would no longer be visiting Dabri.

Earlier, Khattar refused to pay homage at a gurdwara in Dachar village of Karnal on Friday, citing that the Gurdwara committee did not agree to remove a portrait of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale installed in the langar hall.

As news of Khattar skipping the visit to Gurdwara reached Sikh outfits, more posters went up in Dabri and Sikh groups announced to carry a protest. A large portrait has also been installed at Dabri’s village gurdwara.

“We were planning to hold a protest during Khattar’s address,” said a Sikh youth from Dabri. “We are proud of what Sant Bhindranwale stood for and his posters will never be removed from the Gurdwaras,” he added.

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DNA India – Opening of Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims will remain pending if there are no talks: Pakistan

Islamabad Capital Region – Pakistan, 04 October 2018. he opening of the Kartarpur border crossing for Sikh pilgrims will remain pending if there are no talks between India and Pakistan, the Foreign Office said Thursday, asserting that dialogue is the only way forward to resolve issues and disputes between the two countries.

Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal told reporters that Pakistan “could only try” to co-exist peacefully with its neighbour.

Responding to a question about opening of the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims, Faisal said nothing can happen if there are no talks between the two countries. He, however, reiterated Pakistan’s stance to hold talks with India to resolve all outstanding issues, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

Kartarpur is situated in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, close to India-Pakistan border. It was established by the first Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.

Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had attended Imran Khan’s swearing in ceremony in Islamabad in August, has said that Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa hinted at opening of the route to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev is being observed in November 2019.

The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India’s surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Last month, India called off a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries in New York, citing the brutal killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad releasing postage stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.

On SAARC conference, Faisal said Pakistan held talks with all South Asian countries, on the sidelines of UN General Assembly meeting in New York, and they all were very positive to come to Islamabad for the summit. However, he claimed that India is creating hurdles.

SAARC Summits are usually held biennially, hosted by a member state in alphabetical order. The last SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu.

The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad but after a major terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate.

Faisal also said Pakistan is raising the issue of water and what it called the controversial projects initiated by India such as Kishanganga and Ratle, at all forums.

Dawn – Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights discusses attacks on minorities, regrets lack of progress

The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Thursday said that all content concerning minorities in textbooks should be reviewed and suggested that any material spreading hate against minorities should be expunged from the syllabus.

Nadir Guramani

Islamabad Capital Region – Pakistan, 04 October 2018. The committee, headed by Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, said these suggestions emanated from a discussion on the state of minority communities in the country.

“We lie on international forums when we say that Pakistan’s government is working towards providing our minorities their rights,” Khokhar said.

“Years have passed since the Gojra incident and the Joseph Colony incident [where a mob torched houses located in a Christian-dominated neighbourhood of Lahore in 2013] without progress in the cases.”

“Claims were made about arresting the culprits and bringing them to justice,” he added. “However, the men arrested in the cases were eventually set free.”

Responding to the statement, a representative of the Punjab police briefed the meeting on the Joseph Colony incident.

“The police investigated the Joseph Colony incident and made arrests in the case. However, 63 members of the community went to court and recorded statements in favour of the culprits, which forced the court to set them free,” the representative told the meeting.

The committee commented that the culprits in the case were set free because of the lack of evidence against them.

“The system has continuously failed to safeguard the rights of minorities,” Khokhar regretted.

“If the police had support from political figures and the government, they would be able give better results,” the police representative retorted.

“When they use force, cases are registered against the police itself,” he said, adding that at this moment, the police itself needs protection.

Briefing on destruction of Ahmadi place of worship

Briefing the committee on the demolition of an Ahmadi place of worship in Sialkot earlier this year, the Punjab police representative said the issue had arisen when members of the community wished to add another storey to a place of worship.

“However, the administration took notice of the second storey being built and sealed the building. The situation worsened once people from the District Management Authority came to demolish the illegal construction.”

According to a Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya press release from 24 May: “More than 600 miscreants chanting slogans joined in and started demolishing an Ahmadi worship place near the building”,

It added that the “vandalism” had continued until 4:30 in the morning.

During the meeting, in an apparent reference to the removal of Dr Atif R Mian from the Economic Advisory Council, members of the police said, “What can a District Police Officer be expected to do if members of the Ahmadi community cannot even survive on a government committee”.

“The police force needs the government’s support,” he reiterated.

Ad against Manzoor Pashteen discussed

Moving on, the committee chair took up for discussion a controversial ad targeting a Pashtun leader.

“An advertisement campaign regarding safety measures to be taken during the month of Muharram portrayed the chief of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) Manzoor Pashteen in a negative light,” the head of the committee observed, adding that the campaign had hurt the sentiments of the Pashtun community.

The Punjab government responded to the matter.

The Punjab government’s director general of public relations (DG PR) told the meeting that the ads had been released by the Punjab government.

“However, the video for these ads was made by an [independent] advertising agency and no department of the Punjab government was involved in its creation,” he said, adding that the matter had been investigated and the agency involved blacklisted.

“The director of coordination has also been removed from his post,” the DG PR said.

In response to this, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Ministry of interior’s letter to the advertising agency should be provided to the committee.

“The terms of reference through which the inquiry in the advertisement campaign was made should also be given to the committee,” Senator Babar added.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman told the committee that the ad had run on a state-run television channel and he had no authority over it.

“The state television channel does not fall under Pemra,” the chairman explained while adding that he did what he could do on the matter — that is, write to the state-run broadcaster and point out the ad for review.

The committee asked for a copy of the letter written by the authority to the TV channel.

Discussion on censorship

The committee also discussed the matter of media censorship in the country.

“Media persons are being pressured and the environment for working journalists is constantly deteriorating,” Khokhar observed, noting that this was against the spirit of Article 91 of the Constitution.

“The reality of pressure on the media should be brought to the fore,” Khokhar said, acknowledging that political parties have also raised the matter at various fora.

Member of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) Duraid Qureshi told the committee that when members of the association raise their voices against censorship, their channels are taken off-air.

“I have come to this meeting on the Human Rights’ committee’s insistence; now they should take the responsibility of making sure our channels are not taken off-air,” Qureshi said.

During the discussion, Senator Farhatullah Babar claimed: “The Inter-Services Public Relations’ (ISPR) media empire is affecting the freedom of expression.”

“Asma Jahangir brought a petition to the Supreme Court in which she had asked that the ISPR should disclose which channels it funds,” Babar recalled. “This is the first time we’re discussing this sensitive matter.”

“If something happens to any member of the committee, then it should be assumed that the agencies were behind it,” he said.

“The committee will write to all inspectors general of police and tell them to register FIRs against cable operators who take channels off air,” the committee chairman assured.

“The ISPR termed [some] journalists ‘anti-state’ in its press conferences and on Twitter,” Babar continued. “I fear that matters will only worsen as we move forward.”

“[Therefore] this matter should not be confined to this committee. The committee should move ahead and name and shame [those behind press censorship],” he said.

“The Senate’s Whole Committee should be convened on this matter, which will prepare a report on the matter and present it to the chairman Senate. The relevant institutions should then be summoned for an in-camera debate on the issue,” he proposed. “We need a parliamentary committee on the freedom of expression.”

Senator Khokhar subsequently suggested that all PBA members speaking on press freedom be provided protection. It was also decided that the committee would hold a public hearing on media censorship.

“In the second phase, a meeting of a committee of the whole house will be called to address the matter of media censorship,” Senator Khokhar said.

“In the final phase, the committee will call the heads of the departments on whom fingers are being pointed,” Senator Khokhar said, hoping the matter progresses without hiccups and that he would not be forced to “take this last step first”.

“The heads of relevant departments will immediately be called in if anything happens to reporters who present themselves to the committee,” he concluded.