The News – Mini Kabul: Afghan refugees mark 40 years in Pakistan

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 15 February 2020. Afghan boys sell fresh fruit on carts, signs are written in Dari or Pashto, and restaurants in the bustling bazaar sell Afghan dishes such as Kabuli pulao. But this “mini Kabul” is in Pakistan, which this week marks 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees.

It is a grim milestone for entire generations of families who fled war to create a life in Pakistan, but still face an uncertain future and no clear path to citizenship. “We spent an entire life here,” says Niaz Mohammed, a 50-year-old labourer from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province who fled to Pakistan in the 1980s.

“We had weddings and marriages here, our kids were born here. We have jobs and work here, while there’s no peace in Afghanistan. That’s why we are happy here.”

On Sunday UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will arrive in Islamabad for a conference the United Nations says will “send a global reminder about the fate of millions of Afghans living as refugees”.

“The main challenge right now is to continue to provide support to Pakistan in hosting them, and also give access to skills and education for the young Afghan population here,” Indrika Ratwatte, Asia director of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, told AFP on Friday.

Temporary status

Pakistan is one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world, home to an estimated 2.4 million registered and undocumented people who have fled Afghanistan, some as far back as the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Many live in camps, while others have built lives for themselves in Pakistan’s cities, paying rent and contributing to the economy. “Mini Kabul”, the bustling Refugee Market in the northwestern city of Peshawar is home to some 5,000 shops, all run by Afghan refugees.

But their status has always been temporary, with deadlines set for them to leave Pakistan repeatedly pushed back as the conflict in Afghanistan worsens. Even those who have spent decades in the country cannot own property or obtain identity cards, and were only recently allowed to open bank accounts.

Shortly after he came to power, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to grant them citizenship, but the controversial promise sparked outrage, and has not been spoken of since.

‘I prefer to stay

Nevertheless, many of the refugees who spoke to AFP in Peshawar recently said they love their adopted home. Javed Khan, 28, was born in Pakistan, has married a Pakistani woman and has three sons of his own.

“I will leave only if Pakistan forces me,” he told AFP. The situation could yet change: Afghanistan may be about to take the first step on the long road to peace. Late Thursday the US said it has secured a seven-day reduction in violence in the country that it hopes will allow it to strike a deal with the Taliban, as President Donald Trump said a peace accord was “very close”.

Such a deal would allow Washington to begin withdrawing troops, in return for security guarantees from the Taliban and a promise to begin peace talks with the Afghan government. However refugees were sceptical about what it would mean for them.

Mohammed Feroz, who came to Pakistan just over 40 years ago from Kabul, now runs a cloth shop in “mini Kabul”. Sitting in a chair at the front of his shop, he said he supported the withdrawal of US troops, but was leery of US and Taliban motivations.

“They are after their interest. No one cares about us, God is the only hope for us,” he said. Even if peace comes, most refugees said that they would prefer to stay in Pakistan, where they can support their families.

In the Khurasan refugee camp outside Peshawar an estimated 5,000 refugees live in poverty. Yaseen Ullah, 26, collects scrap and sells it to junkyards. His family, his mother, four brothers, and four sisters, share a two-room mud house with no plumbing.

They also came from Nangarhar province across the border, and, despite the harshness of life in the camp, are not eager to go back. “I have no job, no work in Afghanistan. So what will I do there?” Ullah asked.

Mohammad, the labourer from Nangarhar, agreed. “I have to feed my family, my kids,” the father of seven, all born in the camp, told AFP, speaking Pashto with a Pakistani accent. “I am saying it from my heart and I am very clear on it, that I will prefer to stay here. I do not want to return.”

The Tribune – It’s Panjab next, claims Bhagwant Singh

Says only development will matter in next Assembly elections

Ruchika M Khanna – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 February 2020. The pitch for battleground Punjab has been set, the players are ready and the match with the Congress is all set to begin.

We don’t even consider the Akali Dal to be in the field, as the audience (voters) have already rejected them, says Bhagwant Mann, president of AAP state unit, as he basks in the party’s success at the hustings in Delhi.

The people of Punjab are with us. They have seen how good governance in Delhi can change the face of the state. All democratic means will be used to raise public issues and force the government to act. The first issue we will take up is that of high power tariff [Bhagwant Singh Mann – Sangrur MP].

Mann, who came to Punjab after aggressively campaigning for his party in Delhi for almost a month, says the party’s entire concentration will now be on Punjab. The central leadership is all set to build (political) inroads, treading a more cautious and mature path, and present itself as a formidable force in the state.

“The people of Punjab are already with us. They have seen how good governance in Delhi can change the face of the state,” he tells The Tribune. In the coming days, says the Sangrur MP, the state unit will get more aggressive and organise protests to make the incumbent Congress government rise from its political “reverie”.

“All democratic means will be used to raise public issues and force the government to act. The first issue we will take up is that of high power tariff. People of Punjab are unable to bear it and are forced to cut down on consumption.

The power intensive industry is also hit, which has adversely affected the economy,” he says, adding that this issue will be raised by the party in the Budget session of Vidhan Sabha.

On reports of the party’s central leadership playing a bigger role in Punjab unit affairs, post win in Delhi, with probability of structural changes in the party, Mann says the central leadership has always remained involved in the state unit.

“Now that we have won Delhi, the leadership will concentrate entirely on strategising party’s win in Punjab in 2022, but in consultation with the state leadership. Our focus will now be on strengthening the party cadre.

We will showcase the Delhi model of governance and promise what all we could do to improve things for the voters, who feel let down by the Congress, and by the SAD-BJP. We will only talk about development to counter those who rake communal or Panthic issues to get votes,” he says.

On the speculation that AAP might depend on three regional party leaders, rather than just one incharge of the entire state unit, Mann says he is unaware of such a move.

Mann, however, remains non-committal on efforts aimed at unification of rebel and dissenting MLAs and leaders and those who deserted the party.

On attempts by political strategist Prashant Kishor, who recently came on board AAP, to end differences between warring leaders and even bring splinter political groups on board, Mann says the effort is good and needed to strengthen AAP.

Gent – Ajuinlei – Onderbergen – Sint-Michielsplein

05 January 2020

Ajuinlei – Book market

Onderbergen – Universiteit Gent – Het Pand

Onderbergen – Universiteit Gent – Het Pand
Sint- Michielskerk

Onderbergen – Universiteit Gent – Het Pand

In between ‘Het Pand’ and the St Michael’s church

View towards Korenmarkt

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Sputnik – Video of Pakistani Policeman Assaulting a Sikh Enrages Indian Community

New Delhi – India, 14 February 2020. The treatment of minorities in Pakistan has long been a concern for Indians, with rising numbers of reports of forced conversion of girls from minorities, and attacks on temples and people from the Christian, Hindu, and Sikh communities.

A Pakistani policeman has been captured in a video clip while charging with a staff at a Sikh man whose turban has been already unfolded, possibly following a scuffle. The incident occurred in the presence of several onlookers.

The video, shared by Delhi-based politician Manjinder Singh Sirsa, shows a policeman engaging in a brawl with a Sikh. The Sikh man is tying his turban back as a policeman takes out a wooden stick to beat him up despite the presence of someone trying to stop him.

The most discernible symbol of Sikhs is the turban, the cloth headwear tied around the head.

The turban emerges from the five important religious symbol of the faith, Kesh (Uncut hair maintained in a turban), Kara (round steel bracelet symbol of strength), Kirpan (sword), Kanga (wooden comb) and Kachhera (cotton shorts).

Accusing the Pakistans policeman of removing the revered turban, while abusing and beating him, Delhi-based Indian Sikh politician Sirsa urged Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to take action against the police officers concerned.

The video clip has left the people of Sikh community fuming over the treatment of minorities in Pakistan.

Human rights activists claim the minority Sikh population in Pakistan dropped from about 40,000 in 2002 to about 8,000 in 2019.

In a recent incident in January 2020, a Pakistani Sikh Politician Radesh Singh Tony reportedly fled from Pakistan with his family after allegedly facing threat to his life. Tony released a video asking the Sikh diaspora to help him find a safe place to live.

There is no excuse for an attack like this, but we must remember that such incidents happen in India too
Man in Blue–video-of-pakistani-policeman-assaulting-a-sikh-enrages-indian-community/

The Print – ‘Audis don’t give milk’ – why Haryana farmers would rather buy a Murrah buffalo

Famous for high production of fat-rich milk, Murrah buffaloes have changed the fortunes of their owners in rural Haryana.

Jyoti Yadav

New Delhi – India, 15 February 2020. Around 13 km from the district headquarters of Jind in Haryana lie the cobbled lanes of Bibipur village. The neat row of pucca houses in this small but prosperous hamlet is awash with stories and posters of ‘Mohini’, a nine-year-old buffalo that is more precious than a few Audis parked along the narrow lane.

“We won’t sell Mohini even if we are offered tens of millions in exchange. It has received several awards from the (Manohar Lal) Khattar and (Parkash Singh) Badal governments (of Haryana and Punjab, respectively). Our buffaloes win more awards than our boys,” said dairy owner Jasvir Singh, as he stood watching his herd of buffaloes drink water from a pond near his house.

Mohini isn’t any other buffalo one finds strolling down the roads. It is a purebred Murrah, a coveted, high-yielding variety.

A talk about rural Haryana is incomplete without a reference to the Murrah buffaloes. Famous for its high production of fat-rich milk, Murrahs have changed the fortunes of their hookah-smoking owners in remote Haryana. The per capita availability of milk in the state is 878 grams per day, much higher than the national average of 329 grams a day, all thanks to the Murrahs.

Mohini yields 24 litres of milk on an average every day.

“Murrahs have served us for three generations. We have earned more than Rs 20 lakh by selling milk and breeding these buffaloes,” Jasvir said, grinning ear-to-ear.

Over 70 km from Jind, in Hisar’s Litani village, Sukhbir Dhandha has a similar ‘success story’ to tell. He had recently sold one of his prized Murrahs, ‘Saraswati’, for Rs 51 lakh. With a daily average milk produce of 33 litres, Saraswati reportedly held the world record in milk yield. “It had broken the record previously held by a Pakistani Murrah buffalo.

I earned crores from this buffalo. In comparison, Rs 51 lakh is a meagre amount,” Dhandha added.

Kapoor Singh, a resident of Hisar’s Singhwa Khas village known globally for its Murrah buffaloes, had also made headlines in 2013 by selling his buffalo for Rs 25 lakh. Not only milk, the semen of these prized buffaloes are also in high demand. A Kurukshetra-based farmer earned over Rs 40 lakh per annum by selling semen of his Murrah bull, ‘Yuvraj’.

The demand for these purebreds is so high that their prices are often fixed when a calf is still in the womb. A four-month-old at Dhandha’s house is now priced at about Rs 4.5 lakh, he said. To better understand just how Murrah buffaloes are redefining farm economics in this north Indian state, this reporter travelled more than 500 km across Haryana.

What are Murrah buffaloes?

A breed of water buffaloes, Murrahs originated in India and its home tract is Fatehabad, Gurgaon, Jind, Jhajjar, Hisar and Rohtak districts of Haryana. The breed is also found in Nabha and Patiala districts of Punjab. Murrah buffaloes are in particular demand for its high-fat milk yield, around 7 litres every day, which is used for making mozzarella cheese and preferred for sweets.

India has 57 per cent of the global buffalo population and there are 13 recognised breeds in the country.

Satbir Kumar, a resident of Singhwa Khas, described the “best trick” to identify a purebred Murrah. “You can spot a purebred among thousands of other buffaloes. Slender head and legs, thin black tails and curved black horns are some of the telltale identity markers.”

When told how a Murrah buffalo was costlier than an Audi car, he quickly remarked, “But Audis cannot produce milk, can they?”

‘Murrah hit the ramp’

With a glistening jet black body, curved ring-like horns, a light neck and head, Murrahs have become so popular that many of these beasts also have a huge fan following on social media.

When Dhandha had announced that he wanted to sell ‘Saraswati’, the buffalo’s fans on social media were “disturbed”. He soon arranged for an event so that admirers can “see it for one last time”, he said.

A host of very popular beauty pageants for buffaloes, where the animals are decorated with painted horns, ornaments and garlands are also held across the state. The prize money in these contests can range anywhere between Rs 1,100 and Rs 5 lakh.

‘Murrah hit the ramp’ is one such popular contest that is organised by the state government.

At Jasvir’s house, the cupboards and walls are adorned with awards won by ‘Mohini’. He gives an example of just how popular the buffalo is: “If you ask any one in the village about her or his date of birth, they may have to look for their ration or Aadhaar cards. But ask about Mohini’s and they will promptly give you the answer.”

Many other proud owners similarly displayed photos of their prized buffaloes on their mobile phones.

For the pageants, the animals are groomed from a very young age. A typical grooming session includes bathing, massaging their horns and body with oil and trimming their hooves.

Government incentives for rearing Murrahs

To motivate farmers and encourage rearing of Murrah buffaloes, the Haryana government had recently floated several schemes. The state’s animal husbandry department has launched an Integrated Murrah Development Programme under which owners of high-yielding buffaloes are rewarded at village and tehsil levels.

The owner of a buffalo that gives 15-18 kg of milk every day is given Rs 15,000 and those producing 18-22 kg are awarded Rs 18,000. An owner whose buffalo gives 22-25 kg of milk every day gets Rs 20,000 and those owning buffaloes yielding above 25 kg of milk get Rs 30,000.

Another programme, Departmental Dairy Training, is also organised to attract the youth towards animal husbandry. As part of this training, unemployed youth are informed about the best methods of breeding and raising animals.

Many dairy owners, however, also rued that a growing market of synthetic milk has dampened the business of selling buffalo milk.

Gulshan Pruthi, owner of a private dairy in Jind, said, “The business of selling milk has not been as profitable. Prices of pure milk have remained static for years due to the growing market of synthetic milk.”

“Also, fodder for buffaloes that usually consists of cottonseed and ‘khali’ (mustard cakes) are becoming increasingly expensive. In such a scenario, running a dairy has been a loss-making venture,” he added.

Murrahs are a ‘lifeline’ for women farmers

For several women farmers of the state, rearing Murrah buffaloes has helped them manage the smaller household expenses with ease.

Kavita, a farmer in Rewari district, said, “Our buffaloes give around 19 kg of milk. We can easily manage the monthly expenses with the money received by selling milk. Income from farming comes in our hand only on an annual or half-yearly basis but the buffaloes help get by every month.”

Ravinder Hooda, deputy director of the animal husbandry department in Jind, said, “Buffaloes are the spinal cord of rural economy. A rural woman can easily handle every small expenditure in her household by rearing buffaloes.”

An officer at Jind’s Vita Milk Plant, which is under the Haryana Dairy Development Cooperative Federation Limited, said, “We make payment for procured milk on the 1st, 11th and 21st of every month. A woman farmer can manage her household expenses with the amount she gets once every 10 days.”

‘80% milk come from Murrah buffaloes’

In Haryana, a livestock census is carried out every five years. According to the 2012 census, the state had 60.85 lakh buffaloes, including the Murrah variety. This number was 59.50 lakh in 2007.

While the numbers for 2017 are yet to be officially released, sources told ThePrint that it is likely to come down by 20 per cent.

Hooda cited several reasons for this likely decline. “In the last few years, Andhra Pradesh had procured a large number of Murrah buffaloes from Haryana’s villages. Also, more and more people have started living in cities and the government has denied permission to keep buffaloes in residential areas of towns.”

He, however, believes the numbers will go up again in the next five years. “Thanks to Digital India, every village is now getting connected to the Internet. Several farmers and dairy owners from Haryana have created their own YouTube channels where they upload videos of their buffaloes. This helps them publicise their farms and attract buyers.”

Many government reports ThePrint accessed to also concur with the fact that dairy entrepreneurs have influenced rural economy in a good way. Milk production in Haryana during 2018-19 was 10,72,6000 tonnes, of which 80 per cent was buffalo milk, officials said.

Officials at the Jind’s Vita plant also said more than 80 per cent of the milk coming to their plant is from Murrah buffaloes. With more than 700 dairies, Jind is called the hub of animal husbandry.

‘Audis don’t give milk’ — why Haryana farmers would rather buy a Murrah buffalo