The New Indian Express – Not leaving battleground, sacrificing seat for Punjab: Former Army chief J J Singh

Singh said he had told the SAD (Taksali) chief, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, that they should try to defeat the traditional parties, Congress and Akali Dal, at any cost.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 April 2019. A day after his candidature was withdrawn from the Khadoor Sahib seat by the SAD (Taksali), former Army chief General (retired) Joginder Jaswant Singh Monday said he is not leaving the battleground rather sacrificing the seat in the interest of Punjab and the Sikh community.

Vowing to support the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) candidate, Paramjit Kaur Khalra, from the Khadoor Sahib seat in the Lok Sabha polls, Singh said he has set an “example” by withdrawing his candidature to strengthen the third front in the state to root out the “corrupt” Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

The SAD (Taksali), the breakaway faction of the SAD, had on Sunday evening announced that it was withdrawing Singh’s candidature from the Khadoor Sahib seat in favour of PDA candidate Khalra, who is the wife of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra.

“I am sacrificing my seat in the interest of Punjab and the Sikh panth (community). I do not think that I am leaving the battleground” Singh, 73, told the reporters here. “I sacrificed the seat from the position of strength, not from weakness,” the ex-Army chief asserted.

He said the “misrule” of the Congress and the Akali Dal in the state should not continue further.

“We should root out these corrupt parties from Punjab,” Singh said. “If (Paramjit Kaur) Khalra wins, I will consider my sacrifice worth of it,” he said.

Singh said he had told the SAD (Taksali) chief, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, that they should try to defeat the traditional parties, Congress and Akali Dal, at any cost.

“I told him (Brahmpura) that it is important either she (Khalra) step down or she be fielded her from another seat, otherwise I was ready to sacrifice my seat. Because we were fighting each other,” the ex-Army chief said.

He said the political landscape changed after the name of Khalra was announced by the PDA. Moreover, the talks between the SAD (Taksali), AAP and PDA also could not materialise, he added. Singh ruled out contesting the Lok Sabha polls from any other seat.

“I am not after any post. I got many positions on merit,” he said. The Akali Dal has fielded Bibi Jagir Kaur, while the Congress has given the ticket to Jasbir Singh Dimpa from the Khadoor Sahib seat. The Aam Aadmi Party has fielded party’s youth wing leader Manjinder Singh Sidhu.

The former Army chief had unsuccessfully contested the Patiala seat in 2017 assembly polls against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on a SAD ticket. He was the first Sikh to be appointed as the Army chief in 2005. He had also been the governor of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Hindu – Structured India Pakistan engagement key to build edifice of durable peace: Pakistan envoy

New Delhi – India, 14 April 2019. Pakistan’s outgoing High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood also said that there was a need to review the narrative about Pakistan in India.

Pakistan has said it was hoping for “re-engagement” with India after the Lok Sabha polls, noting that structured dialogue would enable the two countries to understand mutual concerns, resolve outstanding disputes and build the edifice of durable peace and security in the region.

In an interview to PTI, Pakistan’s outgoing High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood said diplomacy and dialogue are indispensable to improve ties between the two neighbours.

“We hope for re-engagement after the elections in India. Diplomacy and dialogue are indispensable,” he said.

Tensions between the two countries worsened after the Pulwama terror attack and both the countries were almost on the brink of war after India’s military planes struck a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 and Pakistan carried out a counter-offensive the next day.

Mr Mahmood, who has been appointed as Pakistan’s next Foreign Secretary said dialogue between India and Pakistan was the only option to understand mutual concerns and ensure peace, prosperity and security in the region.

“Sustained engagement and structured dialogue would enable the two countries to understand mutual concerns and differences, resolve outstanding disputes and build the edifice of durable peace, security and prosperity in the region,” Mr Mahmood said.

He also said that there was a need to review the narrative about Pakistan in India.

“A narrative is needed that captures the reality in Pakistan objectively and more fully. A narrative that also helps recognise opportunities for peaceful, cooperative and good neighbourly relations,” he said.

“We must strive for stable peace, equal security and shared prosperity for ourselves and the region,” the envoy added.

In signs of easing tensions, Pakistan around two weeks ago announced that it was releasing 360 Indian prisoners, mostly fishermen as a “goodwill gesture”.

The initiative was followed by Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi granting visas to 2,200 Sikh pilgrims from India to facilitate their participation in the annual Baisakhi celebrations in Pakistan.

Over two weeks after the Balakot strike, India and Pakistan held talks to finalise the modalities for setting up a corridor linking the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Gurdaspur district in Punjab.

Asked about the Kartarpur corridor project, the Pakistani High Commissioner said Islamabad was committed to completing the physical infrastructure on its side.

“The government of Pakistan is proceeding in full measures to complete the physical infrastructure on its side and it is hopeful that the modalities will be mutually agreed between the two sides in good time before November 2019,” he said.

Last November, both India and Pakistan agreed to set up the Kartarpur corridor to link the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur.

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

The relations between India and Pakistan remained tense since 2016. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had travelled to Delhi to attend Mr Modi’s oath-taking ceremony and PM Modi in December 2015 made a stopover in Lahore to greet his counterpart on his birthday.

However, the ties nose-dived following a string of cross-border terror attacks in 2016 and India’s subsequent surgical strikes. The sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April 2017 further deteriorated bilateral ties.

The Hindustan Times – On Ambedkar Jayanti, public stops BJP MLA from praising Modi government

When Desheaj Karanwal’s turn came to speak, he started speaking on Modi government’s achievements which enraged the crowd.

Kalyan Das

Dehradun – Uttarakhand – India, 14 April 2019. A BJP MLA in Uttarakhand was left red-faced on Sunday after he was forced to stop highlighting the achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government during a programme to mark Ambedkar Jayanti on Sunday in Roorkee town of Haridwar district.

A video of the incident also went viral in which the organisers could be seen snatching the microphone from Deshraj Karanwal and warning him to speak only on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Karanwal who is a legislator from Uttarakhand’s Jhabrera constituency was invited as the chief guest of a seminar on the ideals and thoughts of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, organised by an organisation named Ambedkar Samaj Kalyan Samiti (ASKS), Roorkee. The event was organised at the seminar hall of Roorkee Municipal Corporation.

Two other legislators including one from Congress, Mamta Rakesh and Pradeep Batra from BJP were also present at the event as speakers.

Confirming the incident, a member of ASKS and one of the organisers, Surendra Singh said, “The event was to discuss the thoughts and contributions of Babasaheb to the country and Dalit community. But when Karanwal’s turn came to speak, he started speaking on Modi government’s achievements which enraged the crowd.”

“Many among the audience started shouting that this is a not a political platform to talk on any government, which was true. We immediately stopped him and told he won’t be allowed to speak anything political as the platform was only to share thoughts on Babasaheb.”

Following the opposition, Karanwal agreed not to speak anything political.

“He then addressed for about 10 minutes during which he spoke on Babasaheb and Dalit community. We had invited him as a leader from the same community and not any member of any political party,” he said.

Congress MLA, Mamta said, “He had earlier raised objections and tried to support Modi government when some of the speakers spoke on the high-handedness by centre against the protestors in last year’s Bharat Bandh on April 2, called by Dalit orgranisations.”

She however, claimed she wasn’t present when the incident happened as she “already left the event before his address.”

Despite several attempts Karanwal could not be contacted. – SAD (Taksali) announces to support Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra; Revokes General J J Singh’s candidature

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 April 2019. Taking observation of Sikh sentiments, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) has finally decided to withdraw its candidate General J J Singh from the Khadoor Sahib parliamentary poll fray and extend support to Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra.

Notably, Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra is contesting elections on Punjab Democratic Alliance’s ticket.

SAD (Taksali) head Ranjit Singh Brahmpura shared the development from his social media account via two text posts made at 07:30 pm and 07:32 pm (IST). In his first post, he announced the withdrawal of General J J Singh’s candidature while in his second post he also announced to support Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra.

On being approached by Sikh24, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura has clarified that General J J Singh was yet to be informed about the revoking of his candidature.

“I have revoked his name on the suggestion of my party colleagues today and General J J Singh was still to be informed about this,” he added while claiming that General J J Singh won’t mind it as he is a close friend of him.

It is pertinent to note here that a majority of SAD (Taksali) leaders like Sewa Singh Sekhwan were against nominating any candidate against Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra from the very first day, but Ranjit Singh Brahmpura remained adamant on his stance to field General J J Singh from Khadoor Sahib.

At last, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura had to revoke his decision.

SAD (Taksali) Announces to Support Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra; Revokes General JJ Singh’s Candidature  

Bosnia – Sarajevo

08 April 2019

Obala-Kulina-Banan – City Hall
Blue tram

Turning left into Telali

Another blue tram

Black and white tram

Black and white tram

City Hall
08 April 2019

Trying to get in but not succeeding
Zlatan Halilovic – our guide for the day
was waiting for us at another library

More Bosnian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Indian Express – Buddhist texts painted at Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, Army repaints it after protest

The Indian Army, which maintains the Gurdwara associated with Guru Nanak Dev, says it has re-painted the walls after receiving objections from Sikhs.

Man Aman Singh Chhina

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 April 2019. A controversy erupted at the historic Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, on the outskirts of Leh, after Buddhist religious murals and slogans were painted on its walls during renovation.

Indian Army, which maintains the Gurdwara associated with Guru Nanak Dev, says it has re-painted the walls after receiving objections from Sikhs.

The matter came to light earlier this month when renovation and repainting work was being undertaken at the Gurdwara. Visitors, mostly from Sikh community, noticed that Buddhists religious slogans had been painted on the walls of the Gurdwara along with certain murals.

A video and some photographs found their way to social media. In the video, it was alleged that the Gurdwara’s nature of a Sikh place of worship was being changed despite an Army unit, 18 Guards, being responsible for its upkeep.

“We were shocked to see that apart from the Sikh religious symbols, Buddhist religious art and text had been added to the Gurdwara. We brought this to the notice of the Army authorities in Leh and demanded an immediate reversal to the Gurdwara’s original state,” said a devotee from Leh who did not want to be named.

Former president of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Avtar Singh Makkar, said that this was a very serious issue. “How can anyone paint their religious symbols on a place of worship of another faith?

Earlier, the Union government was urged that the Gurdwara be handed over to the SGPC but they did not agree. If the Army is now maintaining it, then it must see to it that the Gurdwara’s sanctity is not disturbed,” he said.

An officer of the Army’s Northern Command, headquartered in Jammu & Kashmir’s Udhampur, said that it was the contractor who had erred. “We immediately got the new images painted over,” the officer said.

A senior officer at Army Headquarters in New Delhi, when contacted, said that the General Officer Commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps intervened in the matter to resolve it.

“Gurdwara Pathar Sahib is one of the most revered places of worship for Army personnel in the entire Ladakh sector. A lot of renovation work is being undertaken in there, for comfort of visitors and before commencement of next tourism season. All work is being undertaken with utmost reverence and piety,” the officer said.

He added that as part of renovation and painting work, local symbols were painted on the outer wall by the contractor. “His aim was only to improve aesthetics. Immediately, on receipt of information about objections by a section of the populace, same was removed within a few hours.

Indian Army troops have a deep emotional and spiritual connect with place hence it is unfathomable that Army will do anything which will affect the ‘shaan’ (honour) of Gurdawara Pathar Sahib,” the officer said.

Gurdwara Pathar Sahib is located around 25 kms from Leh city on the Kargil-Leh highway and is believed to have been a place where Guru Nanak Dev, known as Nanak Lama in local parlance, rested while on his travels around the world.

It is said that a demon had hurled a giant rock, which turned soft when it hit the Guru and got moulded into his body shape. Hence, the name Pathar Sahib.

Given the remote location of the Gurdwara, local Army units are given the task of its upkeep and maintenance.

Dawn – History of violence

Asad Rahim Khan

Op/Ed, 14 April 2019. Around a hundred years ago, Afghan emir Abdul Rahman declared war on the Hazara people. The emir’s armies killed, raped, and enslaved thousands of Hazaras. As ‘mule loads’ of severed heads made their way back to Kabul, much of the community fled to Pakistan and Iran.

Fast forward some years, and the men and women that once escaped an Afghan despot are now escaping Pakistan’s sectarian militants. Where once they ran to neighbouring lands, the Hazaras now content themselves with the other end of the earth.

Yet even this final flight is unsafe: scores have drowned on the way to Australia, their boats capsizing amid waves and whirlpools.

One would think this history of violence should be the consensus by now, that the grief of the Hazara would be universally recognised. It is not.

Two days ago, a bomb was planted in a grocer’s potato sack in Quetta. Besides 10 other innocents, the death toll included nine Hazaras and the FC soldier guarding them.

Though the usual three C’s followed, condemnation, committees and counter-op plans, common sense told us there would be empathy for the victims, and an understanding of the root cause: sectarian murder.

Hazaras are killed because they are Shia. We know because their killers say so.[centre/italics]

But then something strange happened. Social media began lamenting the deaths of ‘Pakistani citizens’. Others asked not to play up the fact that the victims were Shia. And the home ministry put a seal on the story.

“Our guess is that no specific community was targeted,” said the home minister. “Marri Baloch and FC personnel were among those killed as well. The numbers of the Hazara community were just greater.”

There can be no argument that the FC is in the line of fire at all times. There can also be no argument that the Marri Baloch have suffered greatly in these long wars.

But this was an attack on Hazarganji market, where attacks have happened before, where the killers have explicitly cited sect as motive, where a security escort is required to buy and sell vegetables.

To say the numbers just happened to be greater is to forget that Hazara vendors bringing fruit from that same market have been ‘offloaded from buses and shot one by one’ in the past.

As always, the first step in solving any problem is recognising there is one. Hazaras are killed because they are Shia. We know because their killers say so.

To say they are all ‘Pakistani citizens’ and that we are all Pakistani citizens, is not a call to action. It is a brainless bumper sticker.

The students of APS Peshawar were massacred because they were the children of army officers, the killers said so. Polio workers were shot because they were thought to be driving sterility on the West’s behest, the killers said so. A generation of lawyers was wiped out from Quetta because they were ‘justice ministry employees’, the killers said so.

Yet the Hazaras of Quetta are bombed, because they are citizens of Pakistan.

It is high time we bury this idea, if only because we have no more time left.

Few understand the scale of what’s happening, because so few care about what goes on in Balochistan. It is the only province where terror-linked fatalities increased in 2018.

It suffers from the highest number of casualties in the country, having overtaken the tribal areas according to Nacta’s numbers. Factor in its small population, and we realise just how disproportionate the destruction has been.

At the epicentre of it all is Quetta, and at the heart of Quetta, is the Hazaras’ mortal peril. Hazaras have been targeted since 1999, and en masse since at least 2001 (ie over a decade before foreign powers began destabilising CPEC).

Their physical features make them easy to identify, a death knell for any persecuted minority. And the city too has closed around them in a geography of death, “caged between Alamdar Road and Koh-i-Murdar” per a special feature by Dawn.

No community should have to live and breathe in terror this way, let alone a wonderful, peace-loving people like the Hazaras.

Yet even survival comes with its own tragic terms of reference: selling their properties for a song; watching as non-Hazara parents pull their children from the buses that Hazaras travel in; and witnessing the Hazara graveyard grow. Not a single Hazara family is left in Quetta that hasn’t suffered.

None of this is to say the state hasn’t fought back, and paid the ultimate price for it. Colonel Sohail Abid was martyred fighting the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s most wanted in Kili Almas last May; he left behind four children.

Per a police officer posted in Balochistan, “the police and FC have set up permanent pickets, joint patrolling is routinely conducted to minimise the threat, and route protection is deployed for the safety of the zaireen”.

Jam Kamal’s responsiveness sharply contrasts with another chief minister’s: Raisani vowed to send the Hazaras truckloads of tissues to wipe away their tears.

But where pickets may prevent the disease, the root cause is a mindset, sectarian supremacy, where the killers openly sing songs about scoring ‘double centuries’.

We cannot fight it while singing the ballad of banned outfits: holding sectarians to a different standard from separatists; watching as Fourth Schedulers disappear behind four different names. Nor can we fight it without saying what it is.

Prime Minister Imran Khan recently tweeted his condemnation of the attack, and the targeting of ‘innocent people’. Yet here’s what he said in 2013:

“I explicitly take their name and call out to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. If you carry out this terrorism in the name of Islam, then you couldn’t be greater enemies of the religion.” In another report of the same day, he said, “Sectarian killings in the name of Islam are shameful.”

There it is: the name of the beast, the nature of the beast and, for the sake of this country’s soul, the need to finish it. May the Hazara people forgive us.

The writer is a lawyer.