The Print – Modi’s new citizenship law will rip open the wounds of Partition

Muhammad Ali Jinnah would be proud of Narendra Modi.

Shivam Vij

New Delhi – India, 18 November 2019. Political language,” said George Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” That would be a fine description of how the Narendra Modi establishment sells its disastrous policies.

It is certainly the case with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, likely to be a law in a few weeks. According to Prime Minister Modi, “There are many children of Maa Bharti who have faced persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. We will stand with those who were part of India at one time, but got separated from us.”

The claim is that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) will somehow finish the unfinished business of Partition. On the contrary, it will only rip open the wounds of Partition.

Maa Bharti’s disowned children

Partition became necessary because there were two different visions of what India should be like after independence. One vision was based on the two-nation theory, the idea that Hindus and Muslims are two separate “nations”. (Wonder why the two-nation theory never saw the Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Bahai as separate “nations”. The logical end should be an eight-nation theory, if not more).

The other vision was that nationhood is not a religious construct. It is geographical. From Peshawar to Puducherry, we were one people united by shared geography and history. We were united in our diversity.

It was this difference of opinion that led to Partition. Pakistan saw itself as a Muslim nation. It didn’t matter that west and east Pakistanis would be separated by nearly 1,700 kilometres of Indian land mass. India saw itself as a secular country that respected all faiths equally. And the country itself did not have a state religion, unlike Pakistan.

This is why Mahatma Gandhi was busy stopping Hindu-Muslim riots that were meant to drive out Muslims into Pakistan on either side. The father of the nation, as also the government of India, was committed to ensuring that Muslims can stay peacefully as equal citizens.

In other words, all the people of this land were the children of “Maa Bharti”, no matter what religion they followed. But Narendra Modi now wants to separate some of “Maa Bharti’s” children from her: Muslims.

If you are a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian in present-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, you will soon be able to walk into India illegally, or overstay your visa, and become an Indian citizen in six years.

To exclude Muslims from this privilege, just because they are the “majority” community in these countries, is to say that Muslims are not the children of “Maa Bharti”.

What about Ahmadis whom Pakistan considers part of a separate sect and who are possibly far more persecuted than Christians and Hindus? Given that the founding place of the Ahmadiyya sect is in Indian Punjab, Ahmadis make a good case to be included in CAB.

Making Jinnah proud

Defenders of the CAB say it does not make India a Hindu state, because it also welcomes Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Yet, it does exclude the religion of the majority in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. PM Modi must explain why Muslims in these countries are not the children of “Maa Bharti”.

In practice, the new idea of religion-based citizenship will encourage large-scale migration of people from these three countries into India, reminding us of the wounds of Partition. Since the largest religious minority in Pakistan and Bangladesh are Hindus, most beneficiaries of the CAB will be Hindus.

Simultaneously, the so-called, pan-India National Register of Citizens will target Muslims who are unable to prove their grandfathers were Indian. They will be stripped off their citizenship and put in detention camps. This is worse than the two-nation theory. This is a systematic legal design for the persecution of just one religious minority in India, Muslims.

Hindus come in, Muslims get out. That is the message of CAB and pan-India NRC, when seen together.

After all the Orwellian trickery, CAB and NRC are basically a way of accepting the two-nation theory. The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is the perfect time to do this. Muhammad Ali Jinnah would be proud of Narendra Modi. It is as if the Partition is still taking place.

Some more Orwellian trickery

Incidentally, the text of the proposed CAB does not say anything about Partition, persecution, leave alone “Maa Bharti”.

If the idea is that someone should be given citizenship because they are facing religious persecution, then they should be asked to prove they were facing persecution. That is how, often with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, western countries grant citizenship to refugees.

For instance, after CAB becomes law, the Bhandara family in Pakistan, who happen to be Parsis, could walk into India and become Indian citizens. Are they “persecuted” in Pakistan? Not at all. They are part of the Pakistani high society, owners of the Murree Brewery.

Wouldn’t they love it if one of their family members could become an Indian citizen and start Murree Brewery’s operations in India?

So, the idea that CAB is for “persecuted” religious minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh is media spin meant to fool us. The text of the law says no such thing, because the real intention is perhaps not to help persecuted minorities in the three countries. The real intention is to import lakhs of Hindus so that the BJP may play vote-bank politics with them.

On another note, can anyone explain what Afghanistan has to do with Partition? It was not a part of India in 1947. It was never a part of British India. We have always been told that Partition divided India into two countries, India and Pakistan, and a part of Pakistan later became a third country, Bangladesh. So, if CAB is about Partition, what is Afghanistan doing here?

And if Afghanistan can randomly qualify, why not Myanmar? Myanmar (then Burma) was a part of British Indian Empire until 1937. How about giving Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities in Myanmar?

Over 7 lakh Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee to Bangladesh due to ethnic and religious persecution. If an Afghan-Christian from Herat is the offspring of “Maa Bharti”, why is a Rohingya Muslim from Arakan not a child of “Maa Bharti”?

If Afghanistan is included because of the RSS’ idea of Akhand Bharat, why not Sri Lanka? Just because Tamil-speaking Hindus from Sri Lanka aren’t really going to help the BJP win elections in Tamil Nadu?

There are other issues with CAB. Does India really need more people, given it is already one of the world’s most populous countries? And what about security issues? CAB offers a very convenient route for agencies to send spies to India and get them Indian citizenship in just six years.

None of this means India should not give citizenship to refugees. What we need is a comprehensive refugee law that determines how many refugees India can absorb as citizens every year, and the basis for such citizenship should not be religion or nationality. It should be humanity, in keeping with the spirit of the Indian Constitution.

Modi’s new citizenship law will rip open the wounds of Partition

Tolo News – Government criticized for ‘silence’ on China’s Uighurs

Lawmakers said Afghan politicians and the government should not remain silent on such issues.

Massoud Ansar

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 17 November Some members of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council on Sunday criticized the Afghan government and politicians for “silence” on “injustice” against the Muslim community in China.

On Saturday, The New York Times in a report about “organized mass detention of Muslims in China.”

The Times said there are more than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents providing an unprecedented inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The report says that the leaked documents provide an inside view of the continuing clampdown in Xinjiang, where the authorities have corralled as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years.

“Unfortunately, in the Muslim world, we do not have a united institution which will represent all Muslims and treat such issues from a powerful position,” said Ghairat Bahir, a Senator and member of Hizb-e-Islami party.

The report says that China’s president Xi Jinping laid the groundwork for the crackdown in a series of speeches delivered in private to officials during and after a visit to Xinjiang in April 2014, just weeks after Uighur militants stabbed more than 150 people at a train station, killing 31.

It adds that Xi called for an all-out “struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism” using the “organs of dictatorship,” and showing “absolutely no mercy.”

“Injustice against Muslims in any part of the world should not be ignored,” said Attaullah Ludin, a member of Afghanistan Ulema Council.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not comment on this report despite repeated attempts.

MPs said that some Muslim countries, including the Afghan government, and individual politicians, are silent to protect their own interests.

“We call on the government and the international community to raise their voice against injustice towards Muslims in China,” said Keramuddin Rezazada, a lawmaker.

“There are some issues, including love for position and power, that shuts their voices,” said Abdullah Qarluq, a Senator.

BBC News – Afghanistan: Blast kills nine children as they walk to school

Darqad district – Takhar province – Afghanistan, 02 November 2019. Nine children have been killed in a roadside blast in north-eastern Afghanistan as they made their way to school.

The children, eight boys and a girl aged between seven and 10, accidentally stepped on a deliberately-planted mine, officials said.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the bomb.

Last month, the UN said 1,174 Afghan civilians had been killed in the three months until the end of September.

More than 3,000 people have also been injured over this period, the UN said.

“At 8.30am (04:00 GMT) this morning, tragically, nine school children were martyred in a landmine blast,” Jawad Hejri, a spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, told AFP news agency.

He alleged that the roadside device had been planted by the Taliban, which had taken control of Takhar Province for several weeks before Afghan forces recently regained control.

The militants routinely plant roadside devices as they leave a district in the hope of targeting advancing security forces. The Taliban has not responded to a request for comment on the incident.

Last May, a landmine killed seven children and wounded two more in the southern province of Ghazni. In February, seven children were killed and 10 more wounded in Laghman province when a mortar shell exploded as they played with it.

Tolo News – Khalilzad Meets Ghani and Abdullah in advance of peace talks

The US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, arrived in Kabul on Sunday to meet with Afghan leaders.

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 27 October 2019. This is the first time the US Special Envoy for Peace Zalmay Khalilzad has been in Kabul since the peace talks were halted by US President Trump in early September.

“The meeting focused on the achievement of a lasting peace in Afghanistan, and both sides called for the reduction of violence and ceasefire by the Taliban to begin inter-Afghan talks,” said CE Abdullah’s deputy spokesman Omid Maisam.

Khalilzad also met with former President Hamid Karzai and some other Afghan politicians.

The meeting focused on reaching a permanent ceasefire and concerns over delays in talks between Afghans, with the politicians calling on the US to resume talks with the Taliban.

The Afghan government has made assurances that a comprehensive delegation is prepared for the intra-Afghan talks, and considers the ceasefire to be one of the pre-conditions to start talks.

“We have consulted with political parties and with various people and the list has been made and includes individuals who will represent the Afghan people with dignity,” said President Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

Sources close to the peace talks say Khalilzad’s trip is also linked to the release of two US university professors in Kabul.

“Khalilzad’s trip has two parts, one I think is about the release of US university professors that Khalilzad talked to the Taliban about, and the second is about the talks between USA and Taliban that are likely to resume in the near future,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.

Experts say that regional confidence-building in the peace process, and dialogue with the Afghan government over the resumption of peace talks with the Taliban, are the reasons for Khalilzad’s travel to Kabul.

“There is now serious distrust between the Taliban leadership and the USA leadership, and Mr Khalilzad’s travels to the countries involved is to restore that trust between the two sides again,” said Intazar Khadam, a peace researcher in Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad has also traveled to Belgium, France and Russia prior to his trip to Kabul, and has talked with Chinese, Russian and Pakistani representatives about the Afghan peace talks.

Tolo News – MPs hold emergency meeting over Mosque attack

Lawmakers described the attack as “inhuman” and called on the relevant institutions to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Massoud Ansar

Haska Meyna – Nangarhar – Afghanistan, 19 October 2019. Residents of Haska Mina district of Nangarhar province reported on Saturday that the number of dead is now 72 from the mosque explosion on Friday.

Abdulhaq Omare, a TOLO news reporter who visited the Jaw Dara area of the Haska Meyna district, said that the residents are still busy pulling the dead from the ruins of the mosque.

The blast occurred yesterday close to 1:30 pm and its cause has not been identified.

“My three sons were martyred in the mosque. Two of them were married just ten days ago, and the other was 14 years old,” said Banaras, a resident.

“Four people are missing and we are searching to find their bodies. In total we have lost 72 people in the blast and around 30 others were wounded, and yet it is not clear if it was a blast due to explosives (already within the mosque), or if someone entered the mosque from outside,” said Waqifullah, a resident of the district.

Some residents, considering motive, said that Jaw Dara village residents fight Daesh, and have worked with the Afghan military.

“In the past the residents fought against Daesh in this area,” said Akhtar, a Jaw Dara resident.

Local security officials say that it was a suicide bomber that detonated explosives from inside the mosque.

“There were two attackers, one entered the mosque and detonated his explosives and the second attacker fled the area,” said Amir Hamza, an army commander in the district.

“We don’t have any information that the mosque was warned against the attack,” said Jamil Halimzoy, district governor of Haska Mina district.

So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Tolo News – Afghan ambassador threatens to shut down consulate in Peshawar

Mashal protests the removal of the Afghan flag from the Firdous market by Pakistani police.

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 11 October 2019. Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Shukrullah Atif Mashal, issued a statement on Friday threatening to shut down the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar because of the alleged removal of the Afghan flag on Afghan-owned property by Pakistani police.

The statement said that on Thursday night the Pakistani police entered the Firdous market in Peshawar city and closed the market, which, Mashal claims, is the sole property of the Afghan government.

“Over the past few days the Pakistani police have entered the area several times without informing the Afghan embassy, and they have removed Afghanistan’s flag, against diplomatic convention and neighborly manners.”

According to reports, the ownership of the property is disputed, but the Afghan Embassy maintains that the market property belongs to the Afghan government.

On Thursday, Mashal expressed optimism that the incident would not damage relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He claimed that a decision over the property ownership of the Firdous market has been reached between the two governments.

Tolo News – Clearing Operations In Takhar Center, Taluqan

Several days of fighting have resulted in over 30 killed, 40 wounded.

Taluqan – Takhar Province – Afghanistan, 01 October 2019. Afghan Army commandos, in coordination with other Afghan security forces in Takhar province, on Tuesday conducted a clearing operation in Taluqan, the provincial capital, the Ministry of Defense reported.

According to the statement, Taliban attacks in several parts of the city have caused heavy casualties.

A Takhar police spokesman, Khalil Aser, said that currently the defense and interior deputy ministers, and the provincial security chief, are in Taluqan to coordinate forces in the province.

Reports indicate that more than 30 have been killed and more than 40 wounded in the fighting, and that dozens of families have been displaced from Taluqan, Khowja Ghar and Baharak districts.

On Monday, Mohammad Jawad Hijri, spokesman for the Takhar governor, said that over the past few days the Taliban attacked areas close to Taluqan, including Baharak district, in order to disrupt the election process and to take control of areas close to the capital.

Officials also said that the Taliban are from neighboring Kunduz and Baghlan provinces.

Hijri said that security forces now have control of the police headquarters, and that airstrikes have killed 36 Taliban. Also, ANDSF reinforcements have arrived to push back the Taliban.

Hijri did not provide specific numbers about military or civilian casualties.

The Pioneer – Afghan voters head to polls amid deadly violence

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 28 September 2019. Afghans voted in presidential elections amid tight security Saturday, even as insurgents attacked polling centres in a series of blasts across the country that left at least one person dead.

The first-round vote marks the culmination of a bloody election campaign that is seen as a close race between President Ashraf Ghani and his bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive.

Wary authorities placed an uneasy Kabul under partial lockdown, flooding streets with troops and banning trucks from entering the city in an effort to stop would-be suicide bombers targeting residents as they cast their votes.

By midday, the toll appeared relatively light compared to previous elections, though Afghan national authorities provided little, if any, information about reported blasts.

One person was killed and two others wounded in an explosion near a polling centre in Jalalabad in the eastern province of Nangarhar, provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.

And at least 16 people were wounded in the southern city of Kandahar when a bomb went off at a polling station, a hospital director told AFP, while officials across the country reported several small explosions at other election sites.

The Taliban, who unleashed a string of bombings during the two-month election campaign, claimed to have hit several polling stations.

Having voted at a high school near the presidential palace in Kabul, Ghani said the most important issue was finding a leader who could bring peace to the war-torn nation.

“Our roadmap (for peace) is ready, I want the people to give us permission and legitimacy so that we pursue peace,” Ghani said.

Some 9.6 million Afghans are registered to vote, but many have little faith that after 18 years of war any leader can unify the fractious country and improve basic living conditions, boost the stagnating economy or bolster security.

Still, voters braved insurgent attacks and long queues to cast a ballot.

“I know there are security threats but bombs and attacks have become part of our everyday lives,” 55-year-old Mohiuddin, who only gave one name, told AFP.

“I am not afraid, we have to vote if we want to bring changes.” Abdullah and Ghani both claimed victory in the 2014 election, a vote so tainted by fraud and violence that it led to a constitutional crisis and forced then-US president Barack Obama to push for a compromise that saw Abdullah awarded the subordinate role.

“The only request I have from the election commission is that they ensure the transparency of the election because lots of people have lost their trust,” Afghan voter Sunawbar Mirzae, 23, said.

Voting in Afghanistan’s fourth presidential election was supposed to take place at some 5,000 polling centres across the country but hundreds have been closed to the abysmal security situation.

Many Afghans said voting had gone smoothly, triumphantly holding up fingers stained in indelible ink to show they had cast a ballot, but several said they had experienced problems.

“I came this early morning to cast my ballot. Unfortunately my name was not on the list,” said Ziyarat Khan, a farmer in Nangarhar. “The whole process is messy like the last time.”

Campaigning was hampered by violence from the first day, when Ghani’s running mate was targeted in a bomb-and-gun attack that left at least 20 dead.

Bloody attacks have continued to rock Afghanistan, including a Taliban bombing at a Ghani rally last week that killed at least 26 people in the central province of Parwan near Kabul.

The interior ministry says 72,000 forces will help to secure polling stations.

Election officials say this will be the cleanest election yet, with equipment such as biometric fingerprint readers and better training for poll workers to ensure the vote is fair.

Still, the US embassy in Kabul has said it is “disturbed by so many complaints about security, lack of an equal playing field and fraud” and many Afghans say they have no intention of voting, citing fraud and security fears.

Saturday’s poll was initially slated to take place in April, but was twice delayed because election workers were ill-prepared, and the US was leading a push to forge a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban.

That deal has been scuppered for now after US President Donald Trump pulled out and Afghanistan’s next president will likely face the daunting task of trying to strike a bargain with the Taliban.

Results are not expected until October 19. Candidates need more than 50 per cent of the vote to be declared the outright winner, or else the top two will head for a second round in November. Polls close at 3:00 pm (1030 GMT).

Tolo News – Activists, relatives in Helmand seek justice for civilian deaths

“Aren’t they your children? I call on the international community and the Taliban to end this shedding of blood.”

Sayed Sharif Amiri

Lashkargah – Helmand – Afghanistan, 24 September 2019. Grieving relatives and activists gathered on Tuesday in Lashkargah, the provincial capital of Helmand, in a public response to a military operation on Sunday night that claimed the lives of family members and fellow residents. Forty civilians killed and 16 wounded were the numbers claimed by a member of the Helmand provincial council.

On Sunday night, in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, an operation was carried out by Afghan and International forces to target a Taliban weapons cache, official military and government forces reported.

The number of insurgents killed varies among official accounts but sources say that Al-Qaida fighters were among those killed and captured, and photographs were provided by a US forces spokesperson showing suicide vests and other explosive materials seized during the raid.

The dozen or so Helmand residents on Tuesday came together to publicly express their outrage, pain, and in some cases to declare that the continuation of such attacks is unacceptable.

“Aren’t they your children? I call on the International community and the Taliban to end this shedding of blood,” said Amir Mohammad Akhondzada, a tribal elder in Helmand province.

“It is unacceptable for us to continue, you see, forty people killed for the sake of six people,” said Abdul Khaliq, a civil society activist based in Helmand.

Some close relatives present at the gathering say they lost their wives and children in the air strikes, and that a number of the victims were wedding guests.

Samiullah, a resident of Musa Qala, said he lost several of his relatives in the Sunday night operation, and that his sister was wounded:

“One of my nephews was martyred, and three other relatives were martyred.”

“All family members of Abdul Rahman were killed and only one of their family’s children remains alive, the rest were killed in the operation,” said Mohammad Rafiq, a resident of the district.

A member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) called the attack a criminal act.

“An Increase in civilian casualties is worrying for the human rights commission, and we call for all parties involved in the war to pay attention to civilian lives,” said Latifa Sultani, the Women Rights Coordinator for the AIHRC.

A former military officer said that lack of punishment, and intelligence shortcomings, are the main reasons for such incidents:

“Indifference on the one hand, non-execution of orders and lack of punishment on the other, as well as weak intelligence,” are the causes, said Attiqullah Amarkahil, a former Afghan Air Force commander, “but I must say that there is no definitive analysis in war.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense in statement said that the ministry is investigating the incident in Musa Qala district of Helmand province.

“In Musa Qala, we inflicted heavy casualties on foreign terrorists and al-Qaeda affiliates, and we take the claims of civilian casualties very seriously and will investigate the incident,” said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

The Ministry of Defense stated that 22 Taliban members, including five Pakistani members, were killed in the operation.

Dawn – Kabul’s ‘irresponsible, unwarranted’ statement on Durand Line runs afoul of Islamabad

Naveed Siddiqui

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 20 September 2019. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has termed its Afghan counterpart’s renewed refusal to recognise the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as “irresponsible and unwarranted”.

The Afghan foreign ministry’s statement, issued on Friday in response to the opening of the 24-hour Torkham crossing by Pakistan earlier in the week, emphasised that Kabul “does not recognise the Durand Line as an official border between the two countries”.

The statement issued by the Foreign Office in response pointed out that the “Pakistan-Afghanistan border is an internationally recognised, official border between the two countries in accordance with all relevant international laws and conventions”.

The statement further highlighted that Pakistan believes the 24/7 opening of the new Torkham crossing point to be a “significant step forward to facilitate the people and traders of both sides”.

“Such statements only serve to undermine the resolve for peace and cooperation between the two countries and should be avoided,” the FO regretted.

The Afghan foreign ministry statement had issued a muted acknowledgement of Pakistan’s move to open the Torkham crossing.

“The Torkham crossing in order to further help patients and facilitate trade between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will operate round the clock,” it said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had formally inaugurated the border crossing on Wednesday.

“I consider this to be a very historic day,” he had said, noting that trade with Afghanistan had jumped by 50 per cent alone in the period the border opening had been trialed for a 24/7 opening.

An interesting article on the Durand line can be found at :
Man in Blue