The Tribune – Lahore police grant security for Bhagat Singh’s function

Sanjiv Kumar Bakshi

Hoshiarpur, 21 March 2017. The Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) of Lahore has assured Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation (Pakistan) of security for their function to mark the martyrdom day Bhagat Singh at Fawara Chowk (Shadman) in Lahore on 23 March.

Advocate Imtiaz Rashid Qureshi, chairman of the foundation, told this correspondent on the phone from Lahore that Lahore High Court had directed the CCPO to decide our application for the function. The officer today has assured us that security would be provided.”

Pakistan’s Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation had filed a petition in the HC on this count.

Qureshi said they had moved the court after the provincial government and senior police officers did not respond to their request for security.

“We met the CCPO with a copy of the HC order and requested him to decide our application for the function which would start at 4 pm on 23 March. Deciding our application, he has assured us of foolproof security,” said Qureshi.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/community/lahore-police-grant-security-for-bhagat-singh-s-function/380502.html

The News – Bhagat Singh: his times and ours

Ammar Jan

Op/Ed 21 March 2017. The 23rd of March will be the 86th death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, one of the most revered figures of the anti-colonial movement.

In India, his life and death will be commemorated by a right-wing government which, after the nomination of an outright anti-Muslim bigot as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has given up even on any pretence of justice or inclusivity.

And in Pakistan, apart from a few civil society and Left activists, the day will either be ignored or consciously repressed. With a nationalism premised on the obliteration of all traces of a shared past between Muslims and non-Muslims, the story of a young Sikh man’s struggle for freedom becomes a source of collective embarrassment.

It is a form of historical violence to restrict a person to specific identitarian markers when his/her entire life was a formidable effort to overcome all limitations of race, caste and religion that structured the world he inhabited.

Bhagat’s internationalist and cosmopolitan outlook (despite having never travelled abroad) can be gauged from the inspirations he cites in his letters from prison, German communists, English philosophers, Russian anarchists and novelists, and leaders of the National Congress and the Caliphate movement.

Categorising a man who called for total communal harmony and identified with global revolutionary movements of the era as only an Indian, Sikh or even Punjabi does not diminish the universal potential of his life and struggle.

It only indicts us, demonstrating how alienated we are from universalism, from our own past and, eventually, from our own humanity.

Yet a compelling question often posed is: if Bhagat is to be considered an icon to the youth today, how do we explain some of his actions, including the murder of a police constable and a bomb attack at the legislative assembly (purposely thrown in an empty area to avoid casualties)?

This is a pertinent question, particularly at a moment of rising communal, religious and ethnic violence in our region, not to mention the spiralling financial and human costs of the ‘war on terror’. Do we then need to emulate a man who was condemned as a terrorist, and who immediately accepted responsibility for his actions?

The question of violence, however, is presented today in an ahistorical manner in the debates on the subject.

In such frameworks, one can equate the military occupation of foreign lands to the resistance against that same occupation, or the deaths of four million Bengali peasants due to a British-created famine to the violence of the Tebagha Peasant Movement against such lethal exploitation of the peasantry.

One should not forget that even Gandhi’s ‘non-violent’ movements were regularly accused of instigating riots, resulting in imprisonment, torture and death sentences handed out to many ‘peaceful’ anti-colonial activists by the colonial state.

Therefore, one cannot mimic the language of the state to collapse disparate political projects into the awkwardly woven categories of ‘violence’, ‘fanaticism’ or ‘totalitarianism’ without regard to their specific historical development.

And it is pertinent to remember that the context that produced the possibility of a Bhagat Singh was an outright assault on the lives, property and dignity of the Indian population.

In 1919, a Punjab-wide agitation began against the growing economic crisis in the province, often led by soldiers who had loyally served the British during the First World War but now faced precarious conditions due to the demobilisation of soldiers at the end of the war effort.

Tensions reached a crescendo when hundreds of people celebrating the Baisakhi festival at the Jallianwala Bagh were massacred by Colonel Dyer’s troops for allegedly violating a curfew.

This was also a time when imposing humiliating conditions on the general public was meant to, in the words of a British official, “teach them obedience”.

For example, it was made compulsory for all locals in Gujranwala to salute a European every time they saw one, while natives were forced to crawl through a street in Amritsar where a British woman had been harassed.

The Punjab of the 1920s was littered with examples of such forms of collective punishment and humiliation meted out to the locals.

Regardless of all the rhetoric of a civilising mission, colonial rule was established and secured through pain imposed on the bodies of individuals refusing to accept colonial sovereignty, and the fear such procedures induced in bystanders.

Yet, pain and fear remain remarkable omissions in the history of political thought, particularly in their centrality to the experience of colonial modernity.

It is here that we witness what is unique about Bhagat’s actions, his absolutely breathtaking indifference to the machinations of power.

If fear of the colonial state’s reprisals hindered the development of public opposition to the Raj, the young man’s voluntary surrender to police authorities signalled his determination to face the worst excesses of colonial power in its notorious dungeons for political prisoners.

One can assess his steadfastness from his writings and actions while in prison. Bhagat and his comrades refused to offer any defence in the case, using the trial instead to highlight their opposition to colonial rule.

In fact, he castigated his father for displaying “weakness” when the latter submitted a review petition in an attempt to save Bhagat from the impending death sentence; Bhagat reminded his father that his son’s life was not worth compromising the principles of the freedom movement.

In another letter written to an imprisoned comrade who was contemplating suicide, he emphasised that the process of enduring pain and suffering was a necessary component of the fight against colonial power, and ending one’s own life would be tantamount to surrender.

The hunger strikes led by Bhagat and his comrades against ill-treatment in jail captured the imagination of the country, and were met by solidarity events and hunger-strikes throughout the country.

The appeal of his persona can be judged by Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s response to the news of the hunger strike, as he stood in the Legislative Assembly to declare his sympathy with the young men, boldly declaring that “the man who goes on hunger strike has a soul.

He is moved by that soul, and he believes in the justice of his cause. He is no ordinary criminal who is guilty of cold blooded, sordid wicked crime”.

If colonial sovereignty was secured through its inscription on the tortured bodies of the colonial subjects, Bhagat Singh’s decision to voluntarily undergo suffering and turn it into a national spectacle became a major embarrassment for the British.

In overcoming the fear induced by pain, it demonstrated the limits, and eventually, the fragility of colonial power.

What further propelled him into the national imaginary was his subversive tactics in the courtroom, a platform he used not for his own defence, but to mock the Empire and its judicial system in front of the national media.

Poetry, jokes, and slogans substituted legal reasoning in the courtrooms, with the accused questioning the right of an occupying power to judge their case.

One can imagine the appeal of such tactics for ordinary Indians, who were caught in the perpetual drudgery of facing humiliation at the hands of colonial institutions.

An Empire that seemed eternal and was built upon rituals of obedience suddenly appeared contingent, vulnerable and fragile, opening up possibilities of a post-imperial world, an idea that occupied Indians in the 1930s and 1940s.

Therefore, Bhagat Singh’s singularity was not an unrestrained penchant for violence. In fact, in his famous letter to ‘Young Political Workers’, he explicitly denounced the cult of the bomb, and encouraged the youth to educate themselves and work patiently with the masses.

It was his tactical genius in opening up political imagination beyond the colonial present that was truly remarkable. Even more impressive was his readiness to face the consequences of his commitments, which eventually took him and his comrades, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru, to the gallows in Lahore on the 23rd of March, 1931.

What concrete lessons we draw from these episodes and how we fight our collective amnesia about heroic figures from our past depends on us.

In either case, all those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom and human dignity, like Bhagat Singh, – live eternally and are in no need of acknowledgement from those holding onto their privileges and fears in a mediocre present.

Instead, we should reverse the question and ask whether ‘we’ are dead or alive in their eyes. This simple reversal will have immeasurable consequences on how we view history, ethics and, eventually, life itself.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge and a lecturer at the Government College University, Lahore.

Email: ammarjan86@gmail.com

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/193528-Bhagat-Singh-his-times-and-ours

Dawn – Bill for extension of military courts presented in National Assembly

Muhammad Bilal

Islamabad, 21 March 2016. The constitution amendment bill for the extension of military courts was presented in the National Assembly on Monday with lawmakers debating on the subject and criticising the government.

The bill was presented by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid and the final vote on the amendment is expected to take place on Tuesday.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Awami Muslim League (AML) leader Shaikh Rasheed criticised the federal government over, what they said, was its failure to curb terrorism in the country without seeking the military’s assistance.

“Has the country reaped any benefits from the establishment of the military courts in the last two years?” Achakzai asked.

“You cannot govern a country in this manner,” he added.

Rasheed said if justice is not served then people will be forced to take matters in their own hands.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Naveed Qamar, also the former defence minister of Pakistan, lamented the state of affairs in the country, saying he does not believe things will improve in the next two years even if the military courts are revived.

“The need to re-establish military courts in the country is evidence of how the federal government has failed,” said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi during the NA session.

“Was the government not aware that the mandate over military courts will expire after two years?” the PTI leader asked. However, he said that there is consensus that military courts will not be made a permanent part of the Constitution.

Military courts were disbanded on 7 January after a sunset clause included in the legal provisions under which the tribunals were established expired.

The government and the opposition had struggled to reach a consensus on reviving the courts despite frequent discussions.

The primary concern of critics was the mystery surrounding military court trials: no one knows who the convicts are, what charges have been brought against them, or what the accused’s defence is against the allegations levelled.

Proponents say the courts act as an “effective deterrent” for those considering violent acts.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1321735/bill-for-extension-of-military-courts-presented-in-national-assembly

The Asian Age – Sushma speaks to missing Sufi cleric, says ‘both safe, will return tomorrow’

The two clerics had surfaced in Karachi and told that they had gone to meet their devotees in interior Sindh.

New Delhi, 19 March 2017. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday stated that she spoke to Syed Nazim Ali Nizami, one of the missing clerics, in Karachi and was assured they were safe and would be back to Delhi on Monday.

Two Indian Sufi clerics of Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah had gone missing earlier in Pakistan and their return to India was scheduled on March 20.

“I just spoke to Syed Nazim Ali Nizami in Karachi. He told me that they are safe and will be back in Delhi tomorrow,” Sushma Swaraj tweeted.

The two missing clerics were found in Pakistan and are set to return to India on March 20, according to Pakistan media reports.

The two clerics had surfaced in Karachi and told that they had gone to meet their devotees in interior Sindh, where there was no phone connectivity.

The clerics, identified as Syed Asif Ali Nizami and his friend Nazim Nizami, belong to Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah.

Syed Asif Ali Nizami is the head priest of New Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah.

The duo had travelled to Pakistan to visit their relatives in Karachi and then embarked on a pilgrimage to Lahore.

One of them went missing in Karachi and the other in Lahore, reports claimed.

The Indian authorities had raised the issue with the Pakistan Foreign Ministry seeking its help in tracing their missing citizens.

http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/190317/sushma-speaks-to-missing-sufi-cleric-says-they-are-safe-will-be-back-in-delhi-tomo.html

A N I – Pakistan’s Sikh community upset for being ‘left out’ of national census

Islamabad-Pakistan, 19 March 2017. Expressing disappointment at being ‘left out’ of the national census, the Sikh community in Peshawar has said that they fear their community would not be adequately represented in Pakistan’s first national headcount in 19 years.

“The concerned department has not included the Sikh minority in the ongoing count. It is not only unfortunate for us, it is also a point of great concern for the community to have been missed out in the counting exercise,” the Dawn quoted Radesh Sing Tony, chairman of a Sikh committee, as saying to a news channel.

He complained the community was not counted among the religions included in the census form despite a sizeable number of Sikhs living in Pakistan.

Asserting that Sikhs would be counted under the ‘other’ religion category in the form, Tony said this would not provide an accurate picture of the Sikh population and was an injustice being done to them as they were being deprived of their rights.

Tony said he had written to the chief justice of Pakistan and the chief justices of the Peshawar and Sindh High Courts requesting that the community be counted as an official religion.

Admitting it was a mistake on the part of the census authorities, a spokesperson for the census exercise, Habibullah Khan said, “Yes, a sizable population of Sikhs is living in Pakistan, but have we missed them in the census”.

Most of the Sikhs in Pakistan live in the province of Punjab, a part of the larger Punjab region where the religion originated in the Middle Ages, and Peshawar in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, is located in the Punjab province. (ANI)

http://www.aninews.in/newsdetail-NA/MzA0ODQ2/pakistan-039-s-sikh-community-upset-for-being-039-left-out-039-of-national-census.html

The Indian Express – No clue so far about two missing Indian clerics: Pakistan

Syed Asif Nizami and his nephew Nazim Nizami went missing after they landed at Karachi airport

Lahore/new Delhi, 17 March 2017. Pakistan Friday said it has no clue so far about the two Indian clerics, including the 80-year-old head priest of New Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, who went missing in the country.

“No clue to the missing Indian priests has been found so far. However, we are pro-actively pursuing this case,” Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria told PTI.

“We have asked all departments concerned to look into the matter,” he said, adding the Foreign Office yesterday received the request of the Indian government to trace the two missing clerics.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said the Indian government has taken up the matter with Pakistan. “We have taken up this matter with Government of Pakistan and requested them for an update on both the Indian nationals in Pakistan. Both are missing after they landed in Karachi airport,” Swaraj tweeted.

Syed Asif Nizami and his nephew Nazim Nizami went missing after they landed at Karachi airport. Syed Asif Nizami is the head priest of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah. The two had gone to visit the famous Daata Darbar shrine in Lahore and were to catch a flight to Karachi on Wednesday.

The clerics had gone to Karachi to meet their relatives on March 8 before travelling to Lahore to visit the shrine.

A Federal Investigation Agency official at the Lahore airport told PTI that they have no idea about the missing of the two clerics from the airport premises. “It is not clear whether they have gone with someone on their own or there is some other matter,” he said.

A senior Punjab police officer also expressed his department’s ignorance about this matter saying: “Neither we have received any application about the missing Indian priests nor the federal government has asked us to look into this matter”.

Exchanges between clerics of the Nizamuddin Dargah and the Daata Darbar are part of a regular tradition.

No clue so far about two missing Indian clerics: Pakistan

The Hindu – Don’t declare Gilgit-Baltistan as a province, separatists warn Pakistan

India, Pakistan have no right to alter geographical status of J&K, they say

Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar, 18 March 2017. Separatists on Friday opposed the Pakistan government’s move to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province.

In a joint statement, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik said, “Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu, Azad Kashmir [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir] and Gilgit-Baltistan is a single entity.”

The separatists said since the political destiny of Jammu and Kashmir was yet to be decided any proposal to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth State of Pakistan was “unacceptable.”

Referring to Pakistan as “a prime party to the Kashmir issue”, the separatists said such a step may hamper the disputed status of Kashmir.

“We hail the role of Pakistan regarding the issue in international fora. However, any deviation in its stance about Kashmir and its geographical entity is improper and will prove detrimental for the Kashmir cause.”

They said no division, alteration and changes were acceptable unless the people of erstwhile J&K get an opportunity to decide the future course of the State through a referendum. “Both India and Pakistan have no authority or right to alter the geographical status of the State,” they added.

Mr. Geelani, the Mirwaiz and Mr Malik expressed the hope that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “will fulfil the country’s commitment regarding the geographical entity of Jammu and Kashmir”.

The separatists’ reaction comes days after, a committee, headed by Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, had proposed giving the status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan.

The committee suggested that a constitutional amendment be made to change the status of the region, through which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.

Placed under house arrest

Senior separatist leaders, including Mr. Geelani, the Mirwaiz and Mr Malik, were placed under house arrest on Friday in the wake of their call to hold “peaceful street protests after Friday prayers”.

JKLF chairman Malik, while condemning the police action, said, “Casting or boycotting vote is a democratic right of every human. If the rulers really believe in democracy, battle of ideas and freedom of speech and choice, they should refrain from terrorising pro-boycott people and allow the resistance camp to run a boycott campaign in a peaceful way”.

Two parliamentary constituencies, Srinagar and Anantnag, are having by-polls on April 9 and 12 respectively.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dont-declare-gilgit-baltistan-as-a-province-separatists-warn-pak/article17523856.ece?homepage=true

The Statesman – Two Sufi priests from Delhi go missing in Pakistan

New Delhi, 17 March 2017. Two Sufi priests from the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi have gone missing in Pakistan.

They have been identified as Asif Nizami and Nazim Nizami. The two had gone to Pakistan as part of annual exchanges between Hazrat Nizamuddin and Garib Nawaz who is venerated at Data Darbar Sufi shrine in Lahore.

According to reports, the two priests were last seen together at Data Darbar.

India has taken up the matter with Pakistan, sources here said.

According to official sources in New Delhi, Asif Nizami, the chief priest, and Nazim Nizami were to catch a flight from there to Karachi on Wednesday.

“As per their families, while Asif was allowed to go to Karachi, Nazim was stopped at the Lahore airport on grounds of incomplete travel papers.

“While Nazim went missing from Lahore airport, Asif went missing after arriving at the Karachi airport,” a source said.

The matter has been taken up with the Pakistan Government both in New Delhi as well as through the Indian mission in Islamabad, the source said.

http://www.thestatesman.com/india/two-sufi-priests-from-delhi-go-missing-in-pakistan-1489689671.html

Dawn – Troubled waters: India fast-tracks hydro projects in held Kashmir

Jammu & Kashmir, 16 March 2017. India has fast-tracked hydropower projects worth $15 billion in India-held Kashmir in recent months, three federal and state officials said, ignoring warnings from Islamabad that power stations on rivers flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.

The swift approval of projects that had languished for years came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested last year that sharing the waterways could be conditional on Pakistan clamping down on anti-India militants that New Delhi says it shelters.

Pakistan has opposed some of these projects before, saying they violate a World Bank-mediated treaty on the sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries upon which 80pc of its irrigated agriculture depends.

The schemes, the largest of which is the 1,856-megawatt (MW) Sawalkote plant, will take years to complete, but their approval could prove a flashpoint between the nuclear-armed neighbors at a time when relations are at a low ebb.

“I say the way you look at these projects, it is not purely a hydro project. Broaden it to a strategic water management, border management problem, and then you put in money,” said Pradeep Kumar Pujari, a top ranking official in India’s power ministry.

Pakistan denies any involvement in the 28-year armed insurgency in held Kashmir and has repeatedly urged New Delhi to hold talks to decide the future of the region.

Foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said he would confer with the Ministry of Water and Power on the proposed Indian projects, saying it was a technical matter.

He noted, however, that India would be attending a regular meeting of the Indus Commission later this month in Lahore, even though the broader peace dialogue was on hold.

“It seems that finally India has realised the importance of this mechanism under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) for resolving water disputes related to the Indus water and its tributaries.”

Triple power

Six hydro projects in India-held Kashmir either cleared viability tests or the more advanced environment and forest expert approvals in the last three months, two officials in India’s Water Resources Ministry and the Central Electricity Authority said separately.

Together these projects on the Chenab river, a tributary of the Indus, would triple hydropower generation in Jammu and Kashmir from the current level of 3,000MW, the biggest jump in decades, added the officials, declining to be named because the approvals had not yet been made public.

“We have developed barely one-sixth of the hydropower capacity potential in the state in the last 50 years,” the senior official at the Indian Water Resources Ministry said.

“Then one fine morning, you see we cleared six to seven projects in three months; it definitely raises concern in Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s water supply is dwindling because of climate change, outdated farming techniques and a fast-growing population.

A 2011 report by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said New Delhi could use these projects as a way to control Pakistan’s supplies from the Indus, seen as its jugular vein.

“The cumulative effect of these projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season,” it said.

India says the projects are “run-of-the-river” schemes that use the river’s flow and elevation to generate electricity rather than large reservoirs, and do not contravene the treaty.

Environmental groups have questioned whether the government has followed proper procedures in fast-tracking projects located in a highly seismic area.

Blood and water

Modi told a meeting of government officials on the Indus treaty last year that “blood and water cannot flow together”, soon after India blamed Pakistan-based militants for a deadly attack on its troops in held Kashmir.

Modi’s message was two-fold, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said. Terrorism had to stop and India must fully utilise the economic potential available to it within the Indus treaty.

The projects that have won technical approvals in recent months are Sawalkote, Kwar, Pakal Dul, Bursar and Kirthai I and II.

Most of the projects have been held up for at least a decade awaiting multiple clearances. Sawalkote, which was cleared by a government-constituted environment committee in January, was first given techno-economic approval in 1991.

It is now up for forest clearance from the state authorities, after which the Indian government will finalize financing and begin construction.

Some projects like Pakal Dul were stuck in litigation, but that has been resolved, India-held Kashmir’s Power Minister Nirmal Singh told Reuters in Srinagar. “Things are now in a position of take-off,” he said.

In January, India’s senior federal officials made a presentation on energy security to Modi in which they proposed interest subsidies and long-term loans for hydro projects above 100MW, according to the document seen by Reuters.

But Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, said some projects had been cleared without impact assessment studies and public consultation.

“It’s on one river, the Chenab, where you are doing so many projects. This is a very vulnerable region. It’s landslide-prone, it’s flash flood-prone, earthquake-prone,” Thakkar said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1320850/troubled-waters-india-fast-tracks-hydro-projects-in-held-kashmir

The Times of India – India suspends cross-border trade with Pakistan

Jammu-Jammu & Kashmir, 15 March 2017. Indian authorities suspended cross-border trade with Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday after Pakistan continued unprovoked ceasefire violation in the border district of Poonch. The firing severely damaged the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Chaka-da-Bagh.

On Monday, the cross-LoC bus service from Poonch to Pakistan’s Rawlakote had been suspended as a “precautionary measure”.

According to TFC officer Tanveer Ahmed, trucks were sent by Indian traders to ‘zero point’ at Chaka-daBagh on Tuesday, but Pakistani authorities didn’t open the LoC gate. “After waiting for some time, we returned,” Ahmed said.

Sources said there was no likelihood of trade resuming on Wednesday. On March 1, Jammu & Kashmir police recovered a cache of arms and ammunitions being smuggled in a truck along the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar route.

A Chinese pistol, two pistol magazines, 14 rounds of pistol ammunition, four AK magazines, 120 AK ammunitions and two Chinese grenades were recovered from a “camouflage cavity” of the truck by police.

Trading between two sides began in 2008 but has since witnessed highs and lows. Pakistan suspended trading in August 2016 without sighting any reason.

On November 2, tension along LoC and the International Border had led to the suspension of trading and the Karvan-e-Aman Bus Service.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-suspends-cross-border-trade-with-pakistan/articleshow/57641340.cms