The News – Afghan Taliban say talks with US have resumed

Mushtaq Yusufzai

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 18 January 2019. The Afghan Taliban said Friday they had resumed the stalled peace process with the United States and top negotiators of the two warring sides met in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday to discuss the proposed peace agreement, which is likely to be signed next week.

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman for Doha-based office in Qatar, said on Twitter early Friday that their chief negotiator and head of the political council, Mullah Abdul Ghani Biradar on Thursday held a ‘useful’ meeting with US representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad. He said they would continue peace talks for a few more days.

Taliban sources privy to the peace process in Doha said their representatives had been meeting with US officials, though officially the process was suspended for more than a month over some issues related to the proposed peace agreement.

They claimed that major issues which earlier impeded the peace process and posed a potential threat to the peace agreement had been resolved now.

According to the Taliban, they are most likely sign the peace accord with the United States in Doha next week. The Taliban said the US had earlier demanded them to involve the Afghan government in the peace process which their leadership had refused.

Then the US negotiating team demanded the Taliban to announce a ceasefire with the Afghan government and its armed forces as the US and Taliban had already agreed on a ceasefire with each.

It took enough time to the Taliban to develop a consensus as there were reports that some of their top military commanders were not willing to involve the Afghan government in the peace process and stop attacks on the Afghan security forces.

It is stated to be a big outcome of the ongoing peace process in Doha that convinced some hardliners among the Taliban on a ceasefire with the Afghan government. Taliban sources said their top leaders had agreed to a 10-day ceasefire with the US and bringing a major decline in their attacks against the Afghan government and armed forces.

However, the Taliban said once the peace accord is signed, they would start acting on the ceasefire plan. During the ceasefire period, the Taliban said they assured their fighters would stop attacks including suicide bombing, IEDs, target killing, etc, across Afghanistan.

“The US and Afghan forces would ensure to stop all type of operations against us (Taliban) in Afghanistan once the ceasefire is announced,” said a senior Taliban leader. Pleading anonymity, he said Taliban may not publicly announce the ceasefire but would convey to their military commanders and make sure their fighters to act on the ceasefire plan.

And once the peace agreement is inked between the USA and Taliban, Taliban said they would start the intra-Afghan dialogue. According to Taliban Germany had offered to host the intra-Afghan dialogue.

The Tribune – Punjab passes anti-CAA resolution

Assembly terms new law ‘inherently discriminatory’, seeks its repeal

Vishav Bharti – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 17 January 2020. The Punjab Assembly on Friday adopted by voice vote a resolution seeking immediate repeal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, describing the legislation “inherently discriminatory” and a “negation of the secular fabric on which the Constitution of India is based”.

The resolution, which termed the CAA as divisive and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, was introduced in the House by Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra, and witnessed extensive discussion.

Pointing to the omission of Muslims and other communities such as Jews from the ambit of citizenship under the CAA, the resolution asked for a repeal of the Act “to avoid any discrimination on the basis of religion in granting citizenship and to ensure equality before law for all religious groups in India.”

Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh

What is happening in this country? We need to learn from history. In the 1930s, the same happened in Europe. First, they were against communists, then they were against Jews. This is religious cleansing.

Concluding the debate, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh termed the “divisive Act” as a tragedy that he was “unfortunate to witness in his lifetime”. “What happened in Germany under Hitler in 1930 is happening in India now.

Germans did not speak then, and they regretted it, but we have to speak now, so that we don’t regret later,” he asserted.

“Where will all those people, who you brand as non-citizens, go? Where will the 18 lakh people declared illegal in Assam go if other countries refuse to take them? Has anyone thought about it? Has the Home Minister even thought about what has to be done with the so-called illegal people?

Where will the poor people get their birth certificates from?” asked the Chief Minister, declaring that “we all have to live together as citizens of secular India in our own interest.”

People of all faiths have harmoniously lived together in this country all these years, and Muslims have given their lives for this country, said the Chief Minister, citing the example of Indian Army soldier Abdul Hamid, who received the Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his actions during the Indo-Pak war of 1965, just like many others.

Earlier Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, who started the debate, said that before dividing people on communal lines, the country must learn from Punjab’s experience which paid the price with ten lakh lives during the Partition. He said people of Punjab “don’t accept injustice.”

Den Haag (NL) – Scheeperstraat – Holland Spoor

Den Haag NL
Scheepersstraat / Kempstraat
26 December 2019

Gurdwara Singh Sabha – Nishan Sahib – Sikh flag

The Gurdwara is on the corner of Scheepersstraat and

Gurdwara Car Park – Hertzogstraat

Kempstraat – Turkish Cultural Centre

Den Haag NL
Parallelstraat – Station Holland Spoor
27 December 2019

Shadow of the man in blue

Waiting for the train to Amsterdam

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Sputnik – Sikh rights group wants USA commission to single out India for ‘Religious Persecution’

New Delhi – India, 17 January 2020. A Sikh rights group, Sikhs for Justice, has given a briefing to the USA Commission on International Freedom (USCIF) on issues including the recently enacted citizenship law, suspension of communication in the restive Jammu and Kashmir region and alleged persecution of the Sikh community in India.

The rights group which has been actively working for the Khalistan Movement, demanding a separate independent country for the Sikh community, has appealed to the Commission to place India on the Tier 1 list that recognises states with the harshest level of repression.

“Citing the worsening religious persecution of Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities, we have urged the USCIRF to place India on the Tier 1 Countries list during its next assessment report on the condition of religious freedom around the world,” said attorney of the human rights group Gurpatwant Singh Pannum.

The group drew the Commission’s attention to protests over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, that have caused clashes and vandalism leading to hundreds of people being injured and 25 killed.

The law, which provides citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, has been opposed by several political parties and civil rights groups that say it is discriminatory.

“The problem that remains overlooked, is that the core of the problem lies within the Constitution of India itself, which is neither truly secular nor does it protect or treat people of non-Hindu faiths equally,” said the letter to the Commission, describing the lack of religious freedom for Muslims in India.

“What Muslims are facing in India today, the Sikh community has been facing since 1950 when they were labelled as Hindus in the Constitution,” it further stated.

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a USA-based group launched Referendum 2020, seeking a separate homeland for Sikhs, a “Khalistan” in the Indian state of Punjab.

India’s federal government has banned SFJ as a separatist group, on the grounds of its secessionism and alleged anti-national activities.

Dawn – To defuse palm oil row, Davos diplomacy likely between India – Malaysia

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 18 January 2020. Trade ministers from India and Malaysia are likely to meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos next week amid a palm oil spat between the two countries, a Malaysian government spokesman told Reuters on Friday.

Hindu-majority India has repeatedly objected to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaking out against its recent policies which critics say discriminate against Muslims.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, is the second-biggest producer and exporter of palm oil and India’s restrictions on the refined variety of the commodity imposed last week have been seen as a retaliation for Mahathir’s criticism of New Delhi’s actions.

India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal denied on Thursday that the government was trying to hit out at Malaysia in particular.

The row between the countries, nevertheless, pushed benchmark Malaysian palm futures to its biggest weekly decline in more than 11 years on Friday.

No agenda has been set for the proposed meeting between Goyal and his Malaysian counterpart Darell Leiking on Friday, the spokesman for Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry said, adding that the request for a meeting had come from India.

An Indian government source said a meeting was indeed likely with Leiking. A spokeswoman for India’s trade ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Malaysia did not want to escalate the palm spat with India by talking of any retaliation for now, after Mahathir’s media adviser called for tighter regulations on Indian expatriates and products. Malaysia instead wants to rely on diplomacy.

A separate Indian government source said it was important for New Delhi also to talk things out with Malaysia.

“We too have a lot to lose in Malaysia, there are 2 million Indian-origin people there,” the source said.

There were a total of 117,733 Indian nationals registered as foreign labour in Malaysia as at June 2019, accounting for nearly six per cent of the total foreign workforce in the country. Ethnic Malaysian-Indians are the third-largest community in the Southeast Asian country.

Another reason for frosty ties between the countries is the continued presence of controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik in Malaysia, said one of the sources.

Naik, who faces charges of money laundering and hate speech in India, has lived in Malaysia for more than three years and has permanent residency in the country. He denies the Indian accusations.

The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to talk to the media.