The Hindustan Times – Sikh non-profit supplies necessities to public amid panic buying

The organisation, United Sikhs, has appealed to the public to avoid, “panic buying” of supplies.

Ottawa – Ontario – Canada, 23 March 2020. A Sikh non-profit has launched an emergency food bank in Canada to assist with the overwhelming demand for food, supplies and hygiene products to help those in need amid the coronavirus pandemic, it was reported.

The organisation, United Sikhs, has appealed to the public to avoid, “panic buying” of supplies, the Global Newswire said in a report.

“When the general public is asked to stock their shelves for an undetermined amount of time, they overlook a great number of families who cannot afford to do so,” said Operations Manager, Canadian Chapter, Harpreet Singh.

“For those families, United Sikhs is dedicated to making sure they receive the supplies they need.”

The food bank free supplies include canned goods, hot meals, dry goods and medicines.

In a statement, the organisation’s CEO Jagdeep Singh, saidd: “Our seniors, children and vulnerable groups with pre-existing medical conditions are suffering the most due to this pandemic.

“Those who are financially able should consider donating to United Sikhs today so this free Emergency Food Bank of life essentials can be expanded to everyone who needs it.”

Canada has so far reported 1,469 confirmed coronavirus cases with 21 fatalities.

The Tribune – Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib) witnesses record decrease in footfall

SGPC appeals to devotees to remain confined to their houses

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 22 March 2020. The impact of Janata curfew to combat the spread of Covid-19 witnessed a record decline in the footfall of devotees at the Golden Temple. In normal days, the shrine sees a footfall of nearly 1 lakh people daily from all over the globe.

SGPC chief secretary Dr Roop Singh said less than 500 devotees paid obeisance at the shrine. Consequently, Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee Langar Hall catered to around 100 devotees.

He said the devotees should refrain from coming out of their houses as a precautionary measure.

“We request all to stay indoors as per the advisory of the Health Department and government. The live telecast of Gurbani kirtan from the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine will continue,” he said.

Sources said a majority of those who got stuck in the holy city due to disruption of rail and bus services had no option but to go to the shrine’s kitchen to partake of langar.

Meanwhile, dedicated teams of the SGPC-run Sri Guru Ram Das Charitable Hospital and local Health Department were present for the thermo-screening of every devotee visiting the shrine. This was followed by sprinkling of sanitisers on their hands before they entered the shrine.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the threat, the SGPC mulled postponing its annual budget 2020-2021 meeting scheduled for 28 March at the Teja Singh Samundri Hall. Technically, the budget session is to be held before 31 March.

Gent: Citadelpark

Openlucht theater
16 February 2020

Taken from the ‘stage’

The rows of seats

The steps to get down

Walk down with care !

Here apparently one meets with ‘flashers’
Potloodventers (NL)

I must have been there at the wrong time !

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Malay Mail – Subang Jaya Sikh temple (Gurdwara) prepares food for the needy during MCO period

Anne Grace Savitha

Petaling Jaya – Malaysia, 23 March 2020. A Sikh Gurdwara in SS13, Subang Jaya has opened its doors to the needy communities, by preparing healthy meals during the two-week restricted movement order (MCO).

According to a Facebook post by S J Echo, devotees run the food preparation of meals and deliver them to the needy communities from all races within Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya.

Simple phone interviews are conducted to confirm the eligibility of the recipients, before the orders are taken into the kitchen.

Coordinator of this food initiative programme Amanjeet Singh told Malay Mail that this initiative sprang into action because of a youngster who told the gurdwara members about helping the needy communities.

“The committee then set-up this initiative, more volunteers came into the scene, and we began receiving an overwhelming response of food orders from members of the community.

“For today, we received 62 orders and that’s the highest number since this initiative was launched last Saturday.”

Amanjeet said that their target groups are the “elderly and disabled who are unable to buy themselves meals.”

He also said that the food is cooked by three chefs in the kitchen which consists of a lunch meal – chapati, rice, a vegetable dish and dhal.

“The meals are prepared at about 10 am in the morning, and are delivered to the doorsteps of the recipients from 12pm to 12.30pm by our volunteers.

“People from all walks of life have generously contributed to this initiative although we did not ask for donations.”

Amanjeet meanwhile said that strict food hygiene practices are observed while the food is being prepared such as maintaining social distancing and using face masks and gloves.

To know more about this initiative, contact Amanjeet at 0193203854.

Dawn – Uncertain Afghan endgame

Maleeha Lodhi

Islamabad Capital Region – Pakistan, 23 March 2020. The global coronavirus crisis has understandably overshadowed the international endorsement earlier this month of the Doha agreement between the US and the Afghan Taliban.

On 10 March the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution welcoming the US-Taliban agreement as a significant step “towards ending the war and opening the door to intra-Afghan negotiations”.

This marked an important development as it conferred international legitimacy on the agreement signed in Qatar on 29 February. But other developments have been far more consequential for the peace process, already at a standstill following a series of setbacks.

The inability to start intra-Afghan talks slated for 10 March, deadlock over the prisoners’ release issue and the rival inauguration ceremonies of the Afghan president on 09 March, all underline how fraught the post-Doha situation has turned out to be. This raises serious questions about the future of the peace process as envisaged by the Doha accord.

While considering the ramifications of these developments it is important to keep in view the limits of the Doha agreement. This is indicated by its purposely vague nature in some respects and the obvious fact that it excluded the Afghan government with whom Washington signed a separate declaration.

The crux of the Doha agreement is Washington’s commitment to a total but phased withdrawal in return for the Taliban’s commitment to prevent Afghanistan’s soil from being used by terrorists and agreeing to intra-Afghan talks.

The rest consists of aspirational goals and timelines, with the Afghan parties left with the responsibility to negotiate a ceasefire and a political settlement to end the war.

Delay in starting intra-Afghan talks increases the risk of the Doha peace plan being derailed.

The agreement calls for intra-Afghan talks to begin on 10 March and assumes their progress but does not indicate when they are to conclude. It also does not specify when the new Islamic government is to be formed, within the 14-month period committed for the drawdown of US forces or after?

As many analysts have pointed out, for President Donald Trump the agreement to bring troops home ahead of the American presidential election (less than eight months away) is driven by domestic political calculations rather than any strategic thinking.

It enables him to deliver on his pledge to disengage America from an “endless war”.

This implies that his determination to pull out of Afghanistan appears to have priority over whether the negotiating process is able to yield enduring peace. From the Doha agreement and Trump’s statements it seems that the US may even be prepared to contemplate leaving Afghanistan without any meaningful long-term commitment.

At the declaratory level, Washington will continue to assert that the draw-down is conditions-based until full implementation of the agreement, but President Trump is hardly likely to change his long-held view that Afghanistan is a quagmire from which an exit, not staying on, is the best course.

“Countries,” he said after the Doha deal, “have to take care of themselves. You can only hold someone’s hand for so long.”

Disagreement over the prisoners’ release, which the Taliban insist is a prerequisite for commencement of an intra-Afghan dialogue, has become the immediate obstacle in the peace process.

But a bigger challenge is the political crisis sparked by the clash between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah over the disputed presidential election.

If not expeditiously addressed, the tussle can snowball into a bigger crisis. This would further delay intra-Afghan talks at a time when the US withdrawal is already under way while the Taliban have resumed operations against government forces and vice versa.

Several questions are raised by these developments. Will the start of the US drawdown mount enough pressure on Ghani and Abdullah to reconcile their differences and agree on a common negotiating team for intra-Afghan talks?

How engaged will the US be at this time to press the Afghan parties to compromise, preoccupied as it is, like other countries, with tackling the coronavirus emergency? Will a prolonged hiatus in peace talks unravel efforts to end the war especially if there is a renewal of significant violence?

For now, Ghani seems intent on using the prisoners issue as leverage to strengthen his hand with Washington and press Abdullah to back down and accept him as the legitimate president.

This brinkmanship, against the backdrop of parallel governments and regional leaders lining up with one or other side, risks further destabilising the situation and imperilling the peace process.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, while renewing attacks on government forces, have sought to demonstrate that they are sticking to their deal with the Americans.

On 14 March, the Taliban reiterated their commitment to eliminate the Islamic State (Daesh), which was promptly welcomed by US special representative, Zalmay Khalilzad as a “positive step”.

Nevertheless, the longer the delay in starting intra-Afghan negotiations the greater the risk of the peace plan mapped out at Doha being derailed and the country descending into political chaos. While Covid-19 will impose obvious limits on diplomatic efforts, Khalilzad has used it to press the urgency of resolving the prisoners dispute.

Yet despite his prolonged stay in Kabul, he has been unable so far, to overcome the impasse on both the prisoners issue and parallel governments. Nato, meanwhile, has expressed concern at the political turmoil.

For Pakistan it is imperative to accurately anticipate the likely scenarios that may evolve and be ready with a whole-of-government approach to respond to them. This exercise should neither be guided by wishful nor short-term thinking.

The best-case scenario of course is that the principal parties adhere to the agreement, work to reduce violence and defeat the machinations of domestic and regional spoilers even if the timelines change and stated positions are modified in order to make the arrangement work.

However, the risk of other scenarios materialising may be higher, in which the road map laid out at Doha is upended by the collapse of intra-Afghan negotiations or the failure of talks to resolve core issues even if the dialogue can somehow get going.

This could lead to a resurgence of violence which may in turn compel a reluctant US to slow down its withdrawal with unpredictable consequences. All this serves as a telling reminder that winning the peace is always much harder than waging war.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, UK and UN.