Tolo News – Taliban form new peace negotiating team ahead of Qatar talks

Reports indicate that Taliban’s chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai will lead the Taliban team.

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 12 February 2019. The Taliban on Tuesday announced the formation of a 14-member peace negotiating team ahead of fresh round of peace talks with the US envoy in Doha, Qatar later this month.

In a statement, the group said that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy head of Taliban’s Qatar office has assigned the team in line with the guidance of group’s leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Taliban’s negotiating team is expected to hold talks with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on 25 February in Doha.

Reports indicate that Taliban’s chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai will lead the Taliban team. Stanakzai previously served as head of Taliban’s Qatar office.

The rest member of Taliban’s negotiating team is Mawlawi Ziaurrahman Madani, ex-Taliban governor for Kunduz, Maelawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, former minister of education, Shahabuddin Delawar, member of Taliban’s Qatar office who also served as Taliban’s envoy to UAE, Mullah Abdul Latif Mansour, ex-minister of agriculture, Mullah Abdul Manan Omari, brother of Taliban’s founding leader Mullah Omar, Mawlawi Amir Khan Mutaqi, ex-minister of information and culture who now serves as head of Hibatullah’s office, Mullah Mohammad Fazel Mazloom, former deputy minister of defense, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhaw, ex-governor of Herat, Mawlawi Mati-ul-Haq, member of Taliban’s leadership, Mullah Noorullah Noori, Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi Omari, member of Qatar office, Mullah Abdul Haq, ex deputy head of Taliban’s intelligence and Mohammad Anas Haqqani, brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani and member of Haqqani network.

But, Anas Haqqani is currently under the custody of the Afghan government.

Taliban has asked for his immediate release.

But, the Afghan government has said that Anas Haqqani is in jail and that so far no decision has been made for his release. The Afghan government has said that those who have committed crimes against the people of Afghanistan will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of Afghanistan.

“It seems that the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces and the issue that threats will not be posed against other countries will dominate key topics at the meeting,” said political analyst Wahid Muzhdah.

“Main agenda pursued by Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad is how to create the platform for an intra-Afghan dialogue so that the delegation of the Afghan government and the Taliban enter into talks,” said Omid Maisam, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s deputy spokesman.

Meanwhile, there are some reports that Khalilzad has had a meeting with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan’s Karachi city. But Afghan government said that in the fresh round of talks between the US and the Taliban, the priority will be the issue of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“We welcome any move for peace. We also support Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad’s peace efforts and watch it closely that how it leads to peace,” said Mohammad Mohaqiq, second deputy chief executive.

The Tribune – Fearless Freda

Freda Bedi, an Englishwoman, was a leading anti-colonialism campaigner, who later became a pioneering Buddhist nun. A new book chronicles the life of this legendary woman who was actor Kabir Bedi’s mother.

Sarika Sharma

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 10 February 2019. When Freda Houlston confided that she was going to marry the handsome Sikh student she’d been seeing, her best friend, Barbara Castle, replied: ‘Well, thank goodness. Now at least you won’t become a suburban housewife!’

Freda had refused to fit into that groove; in fact, she had refused to fit into any groove. She broke the mould not once, but repeatedly in the coming decades. An Englishwoman, she was jailed in India as an anti-Raj political detainee and later became a pioneering Tibetan Buddhist nun, says former BBC journalist Andrew Whitehead, who traces her life in a biography to be released this week.

Aptly titled The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, the book has been published by Speaking Tiger. It draws on the papers in the possession of her movie star son, Kabir Bedi, besides archives of The Tribune, for which Freda wrote regularly.

Freda, from a shopkeeper’s family in the English Midlands, fell in love with Baba Pyare Lal Bedi, an Indian fellow student at Oxford University. In the spring of 1933, they married at Oxford Registry Office, in spite of the disapproval of her family and disciplinary action by her college.

From the moment of her marriage, Freda Bedi regarded herself as Indian and dressed in the Indian style, even though it was another year before she first got to set foot on Indian soil. By then, the husband and wife had edited four books about India’s claim to nationhood.

Freda grew up in an atmosphere of Fabian Socialism, when Laski and the London School of Economics dominated the intellectual life of the English-speaking people.

Baba Bedi was a communist and militant nationalist, and also a champion hammer thrower. All these and a speech by Mahatma Gandhi at Oxford were to determine her anti-imperialist stand that she was to adhere to for the rest of her life.

In India, the Bedis were to become a noted left-wing couple. They set up home in Lahore where Freda decided to teach English at the Fateh Chand College, while Baba Bedi wrote, lectured and organised political activities.

She told a Tribune correspondent in May 1970: “For years we lived in a thatched hut in Model Town. There was no other way to live if one wanted to be active in politics. We could not have stayed with the ICS brother of my husband even though the doors of TD Bedi were open to us.

We would only have been causing embarrassments. Nor could we lock ourselves in the small town of Kapurthala. The city of Lahore was the capital and there we spent some of our best years.”

In the years to come, she was to sway people with her oratory. It is said thousands thronged her meetings to listen to a white Oxford graduate denounce British imperialism. Gandhi was to later handpick her to be a satyagrahi.

Whitehead says during the World War II, both Freda and Baba Bedi were jailed for opposing the war effort and British imperialism. While Baba Bedi spent 15 months in detention, Freda spent three months as a political detainee (a satyagrahi) at Lahore women’s jail in 1941.

Interestingly, the magistrate had given light imprisonment to the Indian satyagrahis. However, Freda got hard labour, probably to demonstrate strictness to the British who went against the establishment.

“She recorded her jail experiences in her first book: Behind Mud Wails. Some of these were stories of the inmates who had worked with her. The English language professor protested against the women jail being described as ‘female jail’.

A mild elite agitation changed the name to ‘women’s jail’. Baba Bedi in the Deoli detention camp had a longer term to serve behind barbed wires,” The Tribune story had reported.

The Partition blizzard, which blew the inhabitants of old Lahore to various places in India, was to send the Bedis to Kashmir. That was to be her new battleground. The two became politically involved in Kashmir, living there for five years.

They worked closely with Sheikh Abdullah. “Freda would dress in a burka to make contact with underground left-wing nationalists and enrolled in a women’s militia,” says Whitehead.

The next turning point in Freda’s life was to come in the 1950s when she encountered Buddhism while working in Burma for the United Nations. Whitehead says, in 1959, she persuaded Nehru to send her to help improve facilities for the tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees who had escaped on foot across the Himalayas.

“She set up a school for young incarnate lamas and in 1966, without telling her children, she was ordained as a novice nun, Sister Palmo. She later took a higher ordination, and was perhaps the first woman in the Tibetan tradition (western or otherwise) to be ordained as a full Buddhist nun.

She arranged for two young lamas to study at Oxford and persuaded her guru, the Karmapa Lama, to reach out to the West, accompanying him in 1974 on a pioneering rock star-style five-month tour of North America and Europe. She has been described as the seed of Buddhism in the West,” he says.

Freda died in Delhi in 1977 aged 66, bringing to end her very fruitful political, spiritual and personal journeys. Baba Bedi too took the spiritual path in later life and died in Italy in 1993.

Gentbrugse Meersen: Wintry Walk

Wintry Walk
20 January 2019

Frosty leave litter

The leave litter has turned white !

More frosty leaves

A close-up

Surreal looking tree branch

In winter nature is wonderful too

To see all my pictures:

More Belgium pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Indian Express – British Sikh woman’s honour killing story hits UK TV screens

Aditi Khanna

Chandigarh – Panjab – 12 February 2019. The series recounts the story of some of the high-profile murders in the UK from the perspective of those who knew the murderer best, their family.

A high-profile honour killing case of a British Sikh woman who was taken to India by her UK-based family and then killed in Punjab over 20 years ago is set to be revived as a television documentary this week.

Surjit Kaur Athwal was perceived as bringing shame on her conservative Sikh in-laws from west London and taken to Punjab in December 1998 on the pretext of attending family weddings, where she was killed.

The 27-year-old’s mother-in-law Bachan Athwal and husband Sukhdave Athwal were sentenced to prison terms of 15 years and 20 years, respectively, for their role in her murder in 2007. “She will (Bachan) be out in around three years.

The thought makes me ill. She will still be welcomed in the Sikh community, meanwhile, I am in exile for turning on the family,” said Sarbjit Athwal, one of the key witnesses in the murder trial who has since divorced her husband, Sukhdave’s brother.

As Surjit’s sister-in-law, Sarbjit had been her friend and confidante and is one of the key people interviewed as part of ‘The Killer in my Family’ documentary to be aired on Thursday.

The series recounts the story of some of the high-profile murders in the UK from the perspective of those who knew the murderer best, their family.

“Whether it’s their father, sister, brother or ex-wife, we hear up close and personal what life was like with the killer in their life,” said Really, the channel set to air Surjit’s story this week.

Surjit didn’t want to marry Sukhdave and was pretty much pushed into it by her family. She had hoped, because of Bachan’s false niceness at the beginning, the marriage would be bearable, but it was a nightmare,” recalled 49-year-old Sarbjit.

“I grew up in the Sikh tradition, but I had not seen this level of control and difficulty.Surjit and I were treated like slaves,” she said.

Surjit had begun to rebel against the strict family and religious rules, wearing western outfits and going out with friends. When this behaviour was discovered by her husband and mother-in-law, she was beaten by them both.

However, it was when she finally demanded a divorce in 1998 that things came to a head. Her mother-in-law initially refused, but later agreed to the divorce on one condition, that she accompany her on a trip to India as a final act as daughter-in-law before being granted her freedom.

However, Sarbjit became aware of a sinister plan to have her sister-in-law murdered on this trip but was unable to warn her. Surjit’s brother Jagdeesh Singh had also tried to dissuade his sister from going to India, but she assured him that Bachan just wanted company on her on the trip to show one final image of unity at two family weddings.

Eventually, Sarbjit was able to free herself of her in-laws hold, which led to a Scotland Yard inquiry into Surjit’s killing. “She gave a vivid account of how Surjit was tricked or drugged into going on a trip and then driven to a remote location where she was strangled and thrown into the River Ravi,” Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll said in the documentary.

Bachan’s brother Darshan emerged as a suspect in India and was arrested by Indian police in 1999 in connection with Surjit’s disappearance. Her son, Sukdhave, tried to make a claim on a life insurance policy on his dead wife, taken out the very day she left for India, incriminating himself.

The mother and son, who denied the murder charges, were finally sentenced to imprisonment following a trial 12 years ago.

It is good to remember this case and the role that Jagdeesh Singh and Sarbjit Kaur played in getting the murderers punished. We are also reminded of the fact that honour killing are in no way part of the ‘Sikh way of life’.

Dawn – Domestic violence

Editorial, 13 February 2019. Once again, religious parties are creating hurdles in the passing of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Domestic Violence against Women (Prevention and Protection) Bill.

The bill was introduced in the provincial assembly early this week after being approved by the provincial cabinet in 2018.

The stated purpose of the bill is to prevent domestic violence against women and to protect them from sexual, psychological and economic abuse. If passed, women from KP or their guardians can file complaints to 10-member committees headed by district deputy commissioners, which will provide assistance to them.

Any person found guilty of abuse would be imprisoned for up to three months or fined up to Rs30,000 (or both) under the Pakistan Penal Code.

Undoubtedly, this will be a welcome move for the women of KP who deserve just as much security as their counterparts in other areas of the country. But whenever such laws are discussed, opposition voices are raised using the rhetoric of ‘culture’ and ‘family’.

It was only last month that KP appointed its first provincial ombudsperson for sexual harassment, after much resistance from certain quarters.

In 2016, Punjab passed the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, 2015. Over the years, Punjab has had the most instances of violence against women, or at least the most reported.

The law offers protection to women against a range of abhorrent crimes: domestic violence, emotional, economic and psychological abuse and cyber crime. Additionally, it provides protection, residence and/or monetary order in light of such offences.

Prior to this, Sindh had passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2013, and Balochistan passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2014. While these laws may have their deficiencies and loopholes, and are open to criticism and thus improvement, they are absolutely vital in recognising that violence against women is a crime in the eyes of the state.

Violence is another form of control, and there is no end to the many ways society attempts to ‘control’ women through judgement or coercion.

Inherent to these notions of control are knee-jerk reactions and deep-seated fears of women gaining independence, and men subsequently losing their power over them, which somehow translates into the breaking up of families for some. This is simply untrue.

And if families are indeed being kept together through fear and violence, that is not a healthy environment for any member of the unit to be in, in the first place, least of all the most vulnerable member, who has to suffer just to fulfil someone else’s abstract ideals.

Such regressive attitudes infantalise adult women by casting doubt on their decision-making faculties, and are used as a tool to justify oppression.

All women citizens deserve a life free of intimidation, harassment and abuse both within and outside their homes. Domestic violence is not to be taken lightly.