The Indian Express – Honour for us to host Sikh pilgrims, says Pakistan envoy

Calling it an “honour” for the government of Pakistan to host and serve Sikhs from India, Shah said his country would hold full-scale celebrations of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev scheduled for 2019.

New Delhi – India, 18 April 2018. Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to India Syed Haider Shah Tuesday said his country was investigating and “trying to ascertain facts” on what actually happened with Sikh pilgrims.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday had summoned Shah and lodged a strong protest against alleged denial of consular access to Sikh pilgrims who are currently in Pakistan to visit shrines for Baisakhi festivities.

The protest was also lodged against for alleged surfacing of Sikh referendum 2020 posters, related to Khalistan, in gurdwaras there.

Speaking at the convocation of Guru Nanak Khalsa College for Women, Gujarkhan Campus, in Ludhiana, Shah said in reply to a query, “We are investigating. We are trying to ascertain facts… ki hua kya hai? (What has actually happened). It is being sorted out through diplomatic channels and both governments are in touch.”

“There is nothing that can’t be sorted out through talks. It is our belief. The relationship between both countries will certainly improve,” he said.

Calling it an “honour” for the government of Pakistan to host and serve Sikhs from India, Shah said his country would hold full-scale celebrations of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev scheduled for 2019. “Guru Nanak Dev was not only the guru of Sikhs but the entire humanity.

Pakistan will be fully cooperating with India and also celebrate his 550th birth anniversary next year. In fact, our preparations and celebrations from our side will be more than what India is expecting from us,” he said.

Shah said Pakistan would extend full cooperation for Indian pilgrims who apply for visas to visit Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib (birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev).

Earlier, during his convocation address to the students, Shah stressed on Pakistan’s cultural affinity with India, especially with the Sikh community. “We have deep bonds of cultural affinity (with India), especially with Sikh community.

Baisakhi festivities are going on there. Government of Pakistan feels honoured to serve our Sikh brothers and take care of your relatives in Pakistan. We will continue to do that,” he said.

Shah said his stay in India had been ‘memorable’. “Professionally, it has been an important and challenging assignment for me and worthwhile in understanding complexities of relationship between both countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Professor Ravinder Bhathal, president Punjab Sahit Akademi, met Shah and demanded that Pakistan extend cooperation for kavi darbaar being planned in Pakistan and India next year for 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.

Paramjit Singh Sarna, president Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi) and former president Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, also president of the college where Shah came, said, “We face problems in getting visa for our sewaks who do kar sewa at Gurudwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.

We met him several times to discuss such issues. We are glad he accepted our invite to preside over our college’s convocation,” said Sarna.

Sarna said Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan should ignore Khalistan posters and slogans. “It hasn’t happened for the first time. Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan should just focus on praying which is purpose of their visit. They should simply ignore such things,” he said.

Shah also left a note in Urdu in college’s visitor’s diary.

Honour for us to host Sikh pilgrims, says Pakistan envoy

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Dawn – The fall and rise of a social movement

Ahmed Yusuf

Op/Ed, 15 April 2018. Although the news was broadcast from the mosque, word had already spread like wild fire in the village: Younas Iqbal had returned to Okara.

The year was 2003 and Younas had been picked up by law enforcement. Rumour had it that he had been brutally beaten in order to coax surrender. Some leaders claimed that he had resisted till now. Others said he had relented. Nobody quite knew the truth. But Younas had finally returned and there was a meeting in the village centre where he’d speak.

But villagers of Chak 10/4-L soon discovered that Younas wasn’t alone. He had been brought to the village in a police van, still in handcuffs. Soon enough, the entire village congregated at the village centre. Amid pin drop silence, Younas finally spoke: “Sign over ownership documents”.

After almost a decade of slumber, voices of resistance are emerging from landless peasants in Punjab once again. This is the tale of how biradari divided their social movement, but now, a shared struggle is bringing them close again

The village hushed in terror: here was the chief of the Anjuman Mazareen Punjab (AMP), in his village, among his people, asking them to surrender their claim of land ownership. Were they to sign over ownership, it would mean that Younas’ village had fallen. And if Younas’ village would fall, then the others would follow suit, sooner or later.

The AMP had emerged along Multan Road, often on land deemed as “military farms”. Its leaders claim that it was formed in 1998 but only rose to the fore in 2001. The original conflict, in October, 2001, had begun over sharecropping agreements but, by now, it had now morphed into a raging legal dispute over land rights.

The peasants had raised the slogan, “Maalki Ya Maut” [Land Ownership or Death]. And this position had landed them in hot waters with the authorities.

But now, they were mired in an existential crisis: believe in their leader or use better sense?

“Nobody will sign over the papers”, came a voice from a corner.

All eyes turned towards an elderly woman. Everyone knew her as Younas’ mother.

“My son is under duress,” she argued, “look at the marks of torture on his body”.

Indeed some injuries were still fresh. Some bruises had just begun turning purple from blue.

“Nobody will sign over any papers”, repeated Younas’ mother.

The mood in the village centre changed. And soon murmurs turned into a chorus, with male elders joining in. The village was not going to relent, irrespective of what Younas wanted. Younas’ mother’s rallying call soon became collective wisdom and everyone refused. Younas was bundled back into the police van and whisked away.

The AMP is a social movement of landless peasants who had been tilling land for centuries. In modern-day Pakistan, that land had been transferred to the military who had continued their arrangement of share-cropping with the villagers.

But the terms offered in the most-recent agreement, in 2000, were going to financially squeeze the villagers. They were already under the crippling burden of high input costs, let alone inflation. Were they to agree to these new sharecropping terms, they’d effectively be signing their death sentences.

The movement was as organic as it gets. Its main leaders were a trio of friends, Younas Iqbal and Chaudhry Abdul Jabbar from Okara and Dr Christopher John from Khanewal.

Younas ultimately became the chairman of AMP and Dr Christopher its secretary-general, this ensured that, geographically, the AMP’s presence and influence could be established in all villages affected by the new share-cropping arrangement being proposed, from Okara to Khanewal.

The peasants movement soon gathered steam but they also met the might of the state. Elections were round the corner, and Musharraf’s Defence Minister, Rao Sikander Iqbal, also hailed from Okara. There were legal cases being registered against AMP members, some on the charges of terrorism.

With General Musharraf keeping a keen eye on developments, law enforcement had begun to comb through villages for any leaders or supporters of the AMP. Slowly, news started to filter through to urban centres about what was happening in villages across Punjab.

The AMP survived the first few rounds of incarcerations in 2001. As news spread of their existence, however, the nascent “Left” in Punjab also discovered the AMP.

The Left was roughly divided among three trends: orthodox, new Left and NGOs. The first two of these came with their ideological biases while the NGOs came with their promises of funding. The allegation on the NGOs was that they would ultimately “de-politicise” an organic people’s movement.

But this was also a young Left, devoid of recent heroes or even a way of politics. Their last meaningful involvement in mainstream politics was when the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was being waged against General Ziaul Haq.

As the 1990s set in, many former members of leftist parties began taking up jobs in the NGO sector. This obviously depleted the ranks of many left-wing parties.

But now, after more than a decade of inertia, young leftist leaders had chanced upon a genuine people’s movement with mass support among the peasants. All three groups acknowledged the AMP as a genuine force and a tug-of-war ensued; everyone wanted the AMP to identify exclusively with them.

The AMP leadership engaged with everyone but steadfastly guarded their organisation. This was a social movement focussed on landless peasants in Punjab and everyone was welcome to join the movement. But the AMP would not become a peasants’ front for any party nor would it become the poster child of exploitation.

It would, however, plead its case at every forum offered to them. Time and experience would see some of these principles compromised, but at the heart of it, the AMP remained the voice of landless peasants in Punjab.

Younas Iqbal was comfortable with identifying with the Left. He was previously involved with Major (retd) Ishaq Muhammad’s Mazdoor Kissan Party (MKP) but had left the party as the political inertia of the 1990s set in. The one lesson he had learnt from his time in the MKP, however, was how to create a party organisation.

And he successfully managed to do so along with Dr Christopher John, the duo travelling village-to-village across Punjab to tell fellow landless peasants not to sign the new sharecropping agreement and join the resistance instead.
Their position found willing takers in many villages, with village elders granting their assent to joining the AMP’s movement.

Every village soon had their dedicated organiser and contact person, selected from the village itself. Since the movement spanned across Punjab, this also meant that Christian-dominated villages typically had a Christian leadership while Muslim-dominated ones were represented by Muslim men.

But as the NGOs began interacting with the AMP, they offered money to the movement for its organisation, offices, rallies and public relations. Ignoring counsel provided by some left-wing leaders, the AMP accepted the money.

One of the expenditures was on an office in Lahore. It was at the AMP office, however, that Younas Iqbal and Dr Christopher were arrested along with three others. This was in 2003.

In the absence of its leaders, the movement was faced with its first major existential crisis: how would it survive without both the chairman and the secretary-general? Who would dictate the AMP’s course? And who would help them plead the case of their leadership in court?

What compounded organisational matters was that a middle-tier leadership was not as experienced. Because nobody in the AMP really had an idea of how to organise a social movement, a middle-tier leadership was getting trained on the job. It was by no means battle-hardened, however.

And while Younas and Dr Christopher remained in incarceration, nobody really stepped up to take charge of the AMP. A power vacuum had been created in the top duo’s absence and it wasn’t being filled.

With Younas and Dr Christopher locked away in the dungeons, and the organisational structure in disarray, rumours began to circle that the two had “sold out”. The rumours soon turned into allegations, nobody had any proof, and arguments one way or the other were based on insinuations.

Some claimed that the duo had wasted the money provided by the NGOs, or worse, embezzled it.

A few months later, Younas returned. Word was that he was recovering from torture and fatigue. He hadn’t started meeting people yet because he had no stamina to talk. Those who saw him at that point said Younas appeared to have been thrown into demoralisation. From a more boisterous character, he had gone uncharacteristically quiet.

But as Younas explained later, the burden of what had happened on the outside was heavier than the agony of incarceration. His organisation had split and his people had been affected by allegations of him having sold out.

As is the culture of villages, almost every household paid him a visit to enquire after his health. And every household in the village asked him the same question: what really happened on the inside. Younas simply offered his wounds as explanation.

The same was the case over in Khanewal. Everyone paid a visit to Dr Christopher’s house to enquire after his health. And everyone asked him what really happened on the inside.

Even before the AMP, Dr Christopher had enjoyed sufficient goodwill in his village. A school teacher, too, he commanded the trust of many. His wounds were also accepted as proof and he was exonerated by his comrades from allegations of having sold out.

From a movement raging ahead at full-steam, it was now a collection of activists trying to figure out their next steps. And as they toured various villages once again, they realised that in various Muslim-dominated villages, the narrative of caste superiority had taken root. As one leader argues, “it [caste division] was always there but it just needed to be stoked.”[centre italics]

But the landscape that the duo returned to was markedly different to the one they had left behind.

The AMP had already split in 2002, on the question of participating in the elections, but its support base remained somewhat confused about which leadership claim to follow. There was Younas Iqbal on one side and another leader, Mehr Abdus Sattar from the Muslim-dominated village of Chak 4/4L on the other.

In the organisational mayhem created since Younas and Dr Christohpher were picked up, Sattar had staked claim to the sole leadership of the AMP.

In his village and elsewhere, Sattar had argued that how could Muslims be subservient to a Christian leadership? And worse, how could someone from an inferior biradari and caste be leading those from the regal biradaris? Citing allegations against Younas and Dr Christopher, Sattar declared himself to be the new chairman of the AMP.

Even as Younas and Dr Christopher picked up the pieces, the duo realised that the blow dealt to the AMP had been near-fatal. From a movement raging ahead at full-steam, it was now a collection of activists trying to figure out their next steps.

And as they toured various villages once again, they realised that in various Muslim-dominated villages, the narrative of caste superiority had taken root. As one leader argues, “it [caste division] was always there but it just needed to be stoked.”

Meanwhile, Sattar’s leadership was being recognised by some parties and groups of the Left. One leader allegedly posited Sattar’s Arain biradari background as reason enough for him to lead the AMP, officially, though, he rejects this claim.

The same actor pumped money into Sattar’s group through his NGO. Another introduced Sattar to the national and international media.

The neutrals in this leadership conflict were two legal aid organisations: the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the AGHS Legal Aid Cell. Amidst the leadership tussle, AMP activists were still behind bars on charges of treason and terrorism.

Both organisations continued to plead the cases lodged against the landless peasants, Asma Jehangir would contest cases in Lahore while HRCP’s Rashid Rehman would do so in Multan.

By the time Younas and Dr Christopher actually returned from incarceration, in 2003, the AMP’s split had been reinforced along religion and caste lines.

They say guns are the zevar [adornments] of the Pakhtun. But for Sattar, they were a necessity.

Sattar was an educated young man and among the few tenants with a master’s degree. His entry into the AMP was borne out of personal tragedy: his younger brother and uncle had been apprehended from the main vegetable market in Okara, where they had gone to sell their potato produce.

But law enforcement officials not only took them in custody but also confiscated their tractor and trolley, later selling the same produce for 45,000 rupees in the market. For Sattar, the fight was also personal.

A relatively quiet figure, Sattar was fond of dismantling guns and putting them back together in a matter of seconds. He would claim that those in the struggle needed to be armed and vigilant at all times, such was the strength of their adversary.

Wielding weapons was a measure of emancipation and nowhere could he do so with more freedom than in the fields of Hashtnagar.

Hashtnagar, a collection of eight villages in Charsadda district, Khyber Pakhtunhwa, was the site of one of the most successful peasants uprising in Pakistani history during the 1970s.

Landless peasants had turned against the large landowners over the matter of implementing tenancy law and controlling rents, and after an armed conflict, had driven them out of land they believed was theirs.

The uprising was organised by Major Ishaq’s MKP and served as inspiration for peasant-led social movements. Through the decades the movement lost its punch and became fragmented after ideological disagreements over socialism versus Pakhtun nationalism.

But the many factions of the MKP continued their tradition of commemorating an annual martyrs’ day event in Hashtnagar. As Sattar’s AMP was being introduced among political circles, he was also introduced to leaders in Hashtnagar as the genuine representative of the movement in Punjab.

And in his speech, he’d plead the unity of the peasantry and peasants’ social movements, also introducing the Hashtnagar youth to AMP’s slogan of Maalki Ya Maut.

This fit the plan of some leftist organisers: they decided to present both social movements, Hashtnagar and AMP, as sister movements in an attempt to swell the ranks of the organised Left.

An additional advantage, at least in theory, was that one movement would draw strength from the other and vice versa. What Sattar had going for his faction was their Muslim backgrounds, which afforded him more social and political acceptance in Charsadda.

Meanwhile, leftist parties became embroiled in internal debates about which AMP faction to legitimise and why. One line was to be wary of division along caste lines. Others argued that instead of a caste conflict, it was more a conflict of strategy.

Another line was that bringing together various social movements and using their cumulative impact was more practical than the politics of a workers party. Sattar eventually found backing from the Awami Workers Party, which was formed, among others, by key leaders associated with the struggle of the AMP.

The charge-sheet drawn against Younas Iqbal by his comrades contained many allegations, some of which were made long after the AMP had split in 2002. Chief among them was the signing of an agreement to hand over two villages to the military farms, Chak 11 and Chak 15. This was in 2004.

A delegation of the AMP met with General Hussain Mehdi of the Rangers, who explained to them that should they hand over the two chaks to them, the military farms would withdraw their claim to all the land that the peasants tilled as well as the sharecropping agreement that was being proposed by them. These two chaks, however, were non-negotiable.

Younas and Dr Christopher signed the deed, believing that in the larger scheme of things, this would ease the pressure being exerted by the state. Not everyone shared this view, however. Mehr Sattar argued that signing over even one village meant that the entire movement had been defeated.

This position found many takers, there was a large number of people now arguing that Younas was not reflecting the peasants’ interests well enough. As Younas’ politics went quiet, Sattar’s went active.

Another charge levelled against Younas’ group was that they continued to remain “non-political.” In comparison, Sattar’s group was avowedly political. In fact some leftist leaders who had been associated with the AMP dismiss the notion of any division along biradari or religious lines.

One leader even described the idea of a “Christian leadership” as “misleading.” What these leaders argue, instead, is that the real dispute in the AMP came about on the question of strategy, of how to take the movement forward.

Younas’ group had insisted from the first day that their movement would remain non-political and non-violent. But Younas, in particular, drew considerable ire at having supported a pro-Musharraf candidate in the 2002 elections.

In comparison, Sattar attempted contesting elections in 2002 and actually did so in 2008 and 2013, from UC-level to the National Assembly.

Although he once contested polls on a Pakistan Peoples Party ticket, Sattar would later argue that the landless peasants needed to have representatives in the assemblies from amongst themselves if they wanted lasting change for their lot.

Crucially, in local government elections, he’d dispel the notion of the AMP having split along religious lines by fielding a Christian man named Iftikhar Jagga. Jagga won and was installed as the UC chairman.

One interpretation of this dynamic is that while Younas’ became tinged with the de-politicisation brought in by NGOs, Sattar’s continued engagement with political parties meant that his means towards his objective remained political as well.

About two years ago, in 2016, Sattar was arrested. He remains in incarceration, in a high-security prison, and according to his comrades, is being treated as a terrorist. At the time of his arrest, his faction of the AMP did start protesting but they were alone in their fight. Things have changed recently, however.

Another punishing sharecropping agreement is being foisted on the peasants and this has rocked both factions of the AMP.

Unlike last time, however, this is a battle-hardened AMP. New organisers have emerged within the AMP apart from those who were at the forefront in the early 2000s. The organisation has experience in engaging with the provincial government over land ownership and continue to do so.

But both factions also know what to expect and the thorny path that awaits them should the crisis worsen. Both understand how organic movements tend to coalesce and how they tend to collapse.

Both also understand how Younas was used against Sattar and vice versa.

Another favourable factor is that across both factions of the AMP, there are younger cadres pushing for the two groups to merge organisations and unite. In the throes of a common struggle, goes the argument, caste differences cease to exist. What matters more is how all the peasants can safeguard their collective interests.

In addition, this time round, they have support from left-wing parties in Punjab that have swelled in size over the past decade and are noisier than before. And irrespective of leadership, both factions have maintained a consistent line even though their method to go about it might be different.

If Younas is credited for having founded the AMP, Sattar gets credit for navigating it through troubled waters.

Both groups were served a taste of what is to come, once again, last week as Younas Iqbal’s village in Okara was raided once again, the night before a reference organised in Lahore to honour Asma Jehangir.

A contingent from Younas’ AMP was heading to Lahore to participate in the reference but law enforcement barred them from leaving the village. A small delegation managed to evade law enforcement, however, and made it to the event. Their escape was facilitated by AMP women pulling out their thaapas [wooden dowels used to wash clothes] again.

A generation has passed since the AMP was last pressed into active struggle. Its period of inertia ought to have been one of reflection and introspection. No social movement can forever be dynamic; each one has its journey of rise and fall.

In the case of the AMP, the rise of the current resistance marks a new cycle and a new journey. The great hope among leftist circles is that lessons have been learnt from the past. Central among them is that biradari has served to divide but a shared struggle will bring them close.

The writer is a member of staff. He tweets @ASYusuf

https://www.dawn.com/news/1401668/the-fall-and-rise-of-a-social-movement

The News – LHC bans airing ‘anti-judiciary’ speeches of Nawaz, Maryam

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 16 April 2018. The Lahore High Court (LHC) has banned airing anti-judiciary speeches of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other PML-N leaders and directed media regulator to decide the matter within 15 days.

A full bench of the LHC comprising Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Atir Mahmood and Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan was hearing the case.

Over a dozen petitions were filed in the LHC, seeking court order to ban contemptuous speeches by PML-N leaders and initiating contempt proceedings against them.

The petitioner appealed the court to direct Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) not to air their speeches as they are speaking against the judiciary since the Panama Paper verdict.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/305246-lhc-bans-anti-judiciary-speeches-of-nawaz-maryam

WIO News – Religious minorities continue to face violent attacks in Pakistan: Watchdog

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 16 April 2018. Religious minorities in Pakistan like Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmedis and Hazara continue to face violent attacks, a damning report by an independent watchdog Monday said and criticised the state for failing to tackle the issue of their persecution.

The Human Rights Commission at the launch of its annual report, State of Human Rights in 2017 dedicated to the late activist Asma Jahangir says people continue to disappear in Pakistan, sometimes because they criticise the country’s powerful military or because they advocate better relations with neighbouring India.

Jahangir, who was fierce advocate of human rights died in February.

The commission also underscored the rising incidence of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings and the extension of the jurisdiction of military courts.

“False accusations of blasphemy and the ensuing violence, the number of children engaged in labour under hazardous conditions and unabated violence against women remain grim markers of the last year,” the commission said.

“Deaths linked to terrorism may have decreased, but the soft targets’ of religious minorities and law enforcement agencies continue to bear the brunt of violence,” it said.

Journalists and bloggers continue to sustain threats, attacks and abductions, and the blasphemy law serves to coerce people into silence. The people’s right to socio-cultural activities is curtailed by intolerance and extremism, and authorities are lenient for fear of a political backlash, it said.

The 296-page report said, “In a year when freedom of thought, conscience and religion continued to be stifled, incitement to hatred and bigotry increased, and tolerance receded even further, the state remained ineffective in tackling the issue of persecution of minorities and fell far short of its obligations.

There was no abatement in violence against religious minorities, with Christians, Ahmedis, Hazaras, Hindus and Sikhs all coming under attack, it said.

“Little wonder that the numbers of religious minorities are shrinking. At the time of Independence, Pakistan’s religious minority constituted over 20 per cent of the population.

The 1998 census reported that the numbers had declined to a little over three per cent, it said. The report said the migration of Hindus to India “may soon turn into an exodus if the discrimination against them continues”.

While the recent census data has not yet been made public, it is expected that the numbers of religious minorities will show a further decline, the report said.

“Faith-based violence in the name of religion continues unabated and the government has failed miserably to protect minority members against attacks and discrimination. Extremist forces bent on creating an exclusive Islamic identity for Pakistan appear to have been given a free hand,” the report said.

“A few hundred fanatics held the capital and the garrison cities hostage for 23 days in Faizabad, Islamabad in November this year until their demands were accepted. In ceding to the demands of the violent demonstrators, the state has virtually given blanket licence to fundamentalism and militancy in the name of religion, it said.

With a population of around seven million, Hindus form the largest religious minority in Pakistan.

“Concentrated mainly in Sindh, Hindus continue to live an uneasy existence. Their perceived association with India has made life for them tougher than other religious minorities in Pakistan.

According to their representatives, the greatest issue of concern to the community is that of forced conversions, the majority of these involving young women, the report said.

“In most cases the girls, many of whom are minors, are abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and then married to Muslim men, the report said.

Pakistan ranked fourth on the Christian support group Open Doors World Watch List 2017 of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, it said.

“Violent persecution of Christians is a common occurrence in Pakistan. Christians are targets for murder, bombings, abduction of women, rape, forced conversions, and eviction from home and country. Fake cases under blasphemy laws are regularly used to terrorise Christians,” it said.

Sikhs are a small religious minority in Pakistan. According to the last census, there are around 7,000 registered Sikhs living in Pakistan, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, including the semi-autonomous tribal region that shares a border with Afghanistan.

“The Sikh leadership complains that rough and usually inaccurate estimates are made about their exact number.

The Sikh community has also been subjected to continued discrimination and violence from extremists over the years because of their religious affiliation, but they are generally better treated by government agencies as compared to other religious minorities.

Persecution of religious minorities and targeted sects within Islam force people like the Hazaras to seek asylum in European countries. A signicantly large number of Ahmadis has migrated to Europe and lives in exile, it said.

http://www.wionews.com/south-asia/religious-minorities-continue-to-face-violent-attacks-in-pakistan-watchdog-130806

Dawn – Gunmen open fire at Justice Ijazul Ahsan’s Lahore residence in two separate incidents

Haseeb Bhatti & Rana Bilal

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 15 April 2018. Unknown gunmen opened fire at the residence of Justice Ijazul Ahsan in Lahore’s Model Town in two separate incidents only hours apart, DawnNewsTV reported on Sunday.

No casualties were reported in the attacks, one of which took place around 10:45pm on Saturday and the other at 9:10am on Sunday.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar visited the residence of Justice Ahsan and called the Punjab inspector general to probe the incidents. The chief justice is said to be overseeing the situation himself.

Justice Ahsan was part of the five-member bench that delivered the verdict in the high-profile Panamagate case last year, which led to the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, the then prime minister.

He has been appointed as the monitoring judge to supervise and monitor the implementation of the Panamagate case verdict and is currently overseeing the ongoing proceedings by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and accountability courts against the Sharif family members and Ishaq Dar.

He was also part of the three-member bench hearing 17 petitions against the controversial Elections Act 2017. The bench had ruled that an individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution cannot serve as head of a political party, leading to Nawaz Sharif losing his position as the chief of PML-N.

CM orders ‘immediate arrests’

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took notice of the incident as well and ordered immediate arrests of the attackers. He also asked the Punjab inspector general (IG) to submit a report on the incident.

The personal secretary to Sharif, however, was refused a meeting with the Supreme Court judge by the SC administration.

Security personnel, including Rangers, have been deployed outside the residence of the judge.

“This is a highly condemnable incident. We are trying our best to arrest the attackers and a thorough investigation is underway,” Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan told DawnNewsTV. He said that additional security has been provided to the Supreme Court judge.

According to reports by security forces, spent bullet casing of a 9mm pistol was found near the main gate of Justice Ahsan’s residence last night while another was found near kitchen window in the morning.

Forensic experts visited the residence twice and gathered evidence, including CCTV footage of the security camera.
Bar associations, politicians condemn incident

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) condemned the firing incidents and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits.

SCBA President Pir Kaleem Khursheed announced a strike and a boycott of court proceedings on Monday. “We will not allow efforts to pressurise the judiciary be successful,” he said, adding that a lawyer’s convention would be called to decide on the future course of action.

“Lawyers of the whole country are standing with the Supreme Court judges,” SCBA Secretary Safdar Tarar said in a statement, while LHCBA President Anwarul Haq said the lawyers were soldiers of the SC judges.

PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari termed the attacks alarming and called for a judicial probe.

PTI chief Imran Khan also “strongly condemned” the incidents, claiming that they were “tactics to pressurise senior judiciary”.

Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Khursheed Shah, Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervez Ilahi also condemned the incident, demanding an investigation into the matter as well as provision of adequate security to SC judges.

CJP requests lawyers to call off strike

Justice Saqib Nisar has appealed to all bar councils to call off the strike scheduled for tomorrow.

He requested the legal fraternity to “attend the courts tomorrow for sake of dispensation of justice to litigants whose cases are already fixed for hearing tomorrow in different courts”, read a statement issued by the apex court.

“Litigant parties will come from far-flung areas to attend courts therefore strike will not only suffer routine court proceedings but also hurt the expectations of people,” the chief justice was quoted as saying.

Law career

After completing his LLB from Punjab University Law College, Justice Ahsan completed his postgraduate studies from Cornell University, New York.

He was elevated to the bench in 2009 and was confirmed as a judge of the Lahore High Court in 2011.

Justice Ahsan has served as inspection judge for Kasur, Gujranwala and Lahore Districts. In 2015, he was appointed as the chief justice of Lahore High Court and elevated to the SC in June 2016.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1401786/gunmen-open-fire-at-justice-ijazul-ahsans-lahore-residence-in-two-separate-incidents

Sikh24.com – 319th Khalsa Sajna Diwas: Worldwide Sikh Sangat Marks Khalsa Sajna Diwas at Hasan Abdal

Sikh24 Editors

Hasan Abdal – Panjab – Pakistan, 15 April 2018. To celebrate 319th Khalsa Sajna Diwas, a religious procession organized at Gurdwara Panja Sahib situated in Hasan Abdal town of Western Punjab (Pakistan) by the Sikh sangat.

Bhog of Sri Akhand Path Sahib was laid, in which Sikh Sangat from all over Pakistan and parts of East Punjab and India took part.

During the nagar kirtan, students of Bhai Joga Singh Religious School manifested their martial skills in ‘Gatka’ in this religious procession.

Meanwhile, Sikh24 has learnt that Indian pilgrims arrived in Pakistan via train at the crack of dawn on April 13. The Sikh pilgrims took dip in the holy pond of Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib and then enjoyed melodious recitation Gurbani verses during wee hours.

Babar Jalandhari from Hasan Abdal told Sikh24 that about 1700 pilgrims from India have arrived in Pakistan to celebrate Vaisakhi at Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib (Hasan Abdal). He informed that the Evacuee Trust Property Board has made special security arrangements for all the international Sikh pilgrims.

http://www.sikh24.com/2018/04/15/319th-khalsa-sajna-diwas-worldwide-sikh-sangat-marks-khalsa-sajna-diwas-at-hasan-abdal/#.WtOZz5e-nIU

The Tribune – Must implement 1974 Protocol on pilgrims: Pakistan envoy

Smita Sharma, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 13 April 2018. Days after India and Pakistan agreed to mutually de-escalate tensions over the diplomats’ row, the Pakistani High Commission said both countries must “faithfully” implement the bilateral protocol of 1974 on pilgrimage.

As Sikh pilgrims from India poured into Pakistan on Baisakhi, which marks the 320th birth anniversary of the Khalsa, Pakistan envoy Sohail Mahmood said: “The Government of Pakistan makes assiduous efforts to preserve the religious sites and facilitate the visits of pilgrims of all faiths.

This latest visit of Sikh yatris to Pakistan is also consistent with the Government’s commitment and is in accordance with the provisions of the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines”.

“The desire of the pilgrims to pay obeisance is sacred, as they wait and prepare for their spiritual journey throughout the year. Both sides must, therefore, ensure faithful implementation of the bilateral Protocol of 1974.”

Pakistan High Commission has issued visas to nearly 2,100 Sikh pilgrims this year from India this year, as opposed to 1,600 pilgrims went last year.

Over 20,000 Sikh pilgrims from across the globe are expected to attend the Baisakhi festival with main celebrations lined up for Saturday in Pakistan’s Punjab province amid high security.

Sikh Jathas will visit various gurdwaras and holy places in Pakistan from April 12-21, including Hasan Abdal’s Panja Sahib Gurudwara and Nankana Sahib.

Relations between India and Pakistan had soured further amid bloodshed at LoC and International Border.

Recently, Pakistani Zaireens (pilgrims) were not allowed visas to participate in the Urs at Ajmer Sharif and Nizamuddin Aulia. Islamabad called it a violation of the 1974 protocol arrangement under which Indian pilgrims visit holy sites like Katas Raj temple and sacred gurdwaras in Pakistan during Guru Nanak Jayanti and Baisakhi.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/must-implement-1974-protocol-on-pilgrims-pakistan-envoy/573334.html

Dawn – A mortal blow to Nawaz Sharif or a new mountain to climb?

Nasir Iqbal

Islamabad / Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 14 April 2018. The Supreme Court on Friday shut the doors of parliament permanently on the politicians disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution by ruling that such ineligibility is for life, dashing the possibility of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif running for re-election after being disqualified over graft allegations last year.

The unanimous decision of a five-judge SC bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah on the question of Mr Nawaz’s disqualification was the latest blow to the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

The same argument will apply to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader and former member of the National Assembly Jahangir Khan Tareen, who had been declared disqualified under the same Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution by the apex court in December last year.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif while reacting to the judgement said, “I was expecting such a verdict from the Supreme Court because I am their sole target.”

Speaking to the ruling party workers at his Jati Umra residence, the supreme leader of the PML-N said such decisions would not deprive the people of their leadership. He urged party workers to be patient and continue to work towards a historic victory in the 2018 general elections.

The judgement, which had been reserved on 14 February, was pronounced by Justice Bandial in the Courtroom No 1 of the Supreme Court after the chief justice observed that since Justice Bandial had authored the 54-page verdict, he would announce it.

Justice Bandial read out the operative part by holding that the incapacity created for failing to meet the qualification under the provision imposes a permanent bar that remains in effect so long as the declaratory judgement supporting the conclusion of one of the delinquent kinds of conduct under Article 62(1)(f) remains in effect.

Justice Saeed, in his six-page additional note, did not agree with the reasoning employed in its entirety though he concurred with the conclusion.

The restriction imposed by Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution for a candidate for election to parliament served the public need and public interest for honest, upright, truthful, trustworthy and prudent elected representatives, wrote Justice Bandial.

The judicial mechanism under Article 62(1)(f) grants a fair opportunity and adequate remedy for relief to a candidate under challenge to vindicate him. Therefore, permanent incapacity of a candidate for election under this provision is not an arbitrary, excessive or unreasonable curtailment of his fundamental rights under Article 17(2) of the Constitution.

The judgement, however, drew mixed response from the legal fraternity as a member of the Pakistan Bar Council, Raheel Kamran Sheikh, observed that the interpretation of the article done by the court was unusually harsh and penal.

“If parliamentarians do not wake up even now to the potential dangers of the power embodied in Article 62 and fail to suitably amend the same, the courts will continue to enforce their subjective standards of morality and ban them for life one after another even if their alleged mischief is not culpable enough to be labelled as a crime,” cautioned the PBC member.

Advocate Kamran regretted that the judgement reinforced the fact that Pakistan was a theocratic state.

However, senior counsel Chaudhry Faisal Hussain termed the interpretation “most accurate” citing that the court kept itself out of the Constitution by giving the parliament a chance to provide the missing time frame and cover the gaps by following due process.

Justice Bandial observed the introduction of Islamic provisions in Article 62 of the Constitution in 1985 was retained by the 18th Amendment in clauses “d, e and f” of Article 62.

The clauses carry Quranic qualifications under Islamic law for establishing eligibility to hold public office of trust or authority, laying down conditions for election to parliament such as good character, observance of Islamic injunctions, knowledge of Islamic teachings and abstention from major sins.

These conditions are subjective and under Article 62(2) of the Constitution obligate only the Muslim candidates for election to parliament. As these provisions do not prescribe objective standards of conduct, only the cases of blatant deviation from commonly recognised and accepted standards of Islamic norms can form the subject matter of such restraints.

But Article 62(1)(f) imposes Islamic ethical conditions for eligibility of a candidate for election to parliament by making it applicable to both Muslims as well as non-Muslim candidates for parliamentary membership.

In Pakistan, the verdict observed, parliamentarians held leadership roles for the people and constituted the political and ruling elite in society. According to the preamble of the Constitution, these persons are representatives of the people of Pakistan to whom the former are ultimately responsible as fiduciaries.

The qualities of sagacity, righteousness, honesty and trustworthiness laid down in Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution as qualifications for membership to the elected house are actually derived from the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the verdict emphasised.

After the 18th Amendment, the judgement recalled an adverse declaration by a court of law against a candidate was necessary to oust him from an election. Thus, the prescription by the 18th amendment of an adverse judicial declaration to precipitate the ineligibility of a candidate for election has provided a lawful, transparent and fair mechanism to a candidate.

The judgement also cited the 2013 Abdul Ghafoor Lehri case in which the apex court had held that a false declaration made in the nomination papers by a candidate about his academic qualification led to a permanent embargo on the candidature for election.

This is because Article 62 did not provide any period for which a person would stand debarred from contesting elections and therefore the appellant before the court could not become qualified merely by efflux of time.

To the same effect is the judgement in Mohammad Khan Junejo case wherein a deficiency in qualification under Article 62(1)(f) led to a permanent disqualification. Thus it is clear from the findings recorded in these judgements that the ineligibility of a candidate for election in Article 62(1)(f) is the basis for holding his incapacity to be incurable by efflux of time.

The decision also compared the case of an ex-convict under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution with the one convict under Article 62(1)(f), because the latter had not paid a personal price for his delinquent act.

It is in such circumstances that a person declared to be dishonest or in breach of his trust or fiduciary duty or being non-righteous or profligate must suffer the burden of that finding of incapacity for as long as the court decree remains in force.

The judgement elaborated said the retributive justice entailed several serious consequences apart from deprivation of personal liberty of the convict. Such a convict in fact suffered a loss of life by being immobilised, endured loss of his livelihood, watched disruption and hurt to his family and lived with the lasting stigma of conviction on his reputation.

It was, therefore, said a corporal punishment had “paid his dues to society”. Even after his release from jail, the judgement said, the convict faced many daunting challenges for rehabilitating himself in society as a responsible, productive and acceptable member.

It was in this context that one should look at the disqualification under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution for a limited period of five years imposed upon a convict after his release from jail, the verdict added.

However, a candidate for election who had committed misconduct falling within the terms of Article 62(1) (f), in particular, misrepresentation, dishonesty, breach of trust, fraud, cheating, lack of fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, deception, dishonest misappropriation, declared by a court of civil jurisdiction as per Islamic and also universal criteria of honesty, integrity and probity, rendered himself unfit to hold public office, the judgement said.

Zulqernain Tahir in Lahore also contributed to this report

https://www.dawn.com/news/1401526/a-mortal-blow-to-nawaz-or-a-new-mountain-to-climb

Scroll.in – Lost in Partition, the Sikh-Muslim connection comes alive in the tale of Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana

A descendant of the guru’s Muslim disciple speaks of the importance of the rababi tradition in Sikhism

Haroon Khalid

Friday, 13 April 2018. “Why weren’t the Muslim rababi protected? They held such high status in Sikhism? Why were they allowed to leave East Punjab at the time of Partition?” I asked.

The question was directed at Ghulam Hussain. I was in his home, deep within the older part of Lahore, close to the shrine of Data Darbar, the city’s patron saint. Dressed in a white shalwar kameez and maroon waist coat, a white scarf tied around his neck, the octogenarian had only recently recovered from what had become for him a recurring sickness.

He had nevertheless agreed to my request for an interview. Behind him, the walls and cupboard were adorned with symbols of the Sikh religion, a picture of a kirpan, the Golden Temple, and numerous awards he had received from Sikh organisations over the years.

Along with them were a few Islamic symbols, including a poster with a verse from the Quran. It was February of 2014 when I met Hussain. He died in April the following year, and this was possibly his last interview.

I had searched for Ghulam Hussain for a few years, having heard that he was a descendant of Bhai Mardana, Guru Nanak’s Muslim rababi. Bhai Mardana played an important role in the development of the Sikh religion. Not only did he accompany Guru Nanak on his travels, he also played the rabab while Nanak sang his divinely inspired poetry.

Since their time, Muslim rababi had been given the responsibility of performing the kirtan at gurdwaras, till the tradition was abruptly disrupted during Partition.

From kirtan to qawwali

‘“Everyone was only concerned about their own selves at the time,” Hussain recalled. “We were Muslims, therefore we had to leave. It did not matter if we were rababi. What mattered was our Muslim identity. That became our only identity. In fact, a couple of our rababi even lost their lives during the riots.

My father-in-law, Bhai Moti, was one of them. He used to play tabla at a gurdwara in Patiala. Another rababi who used to perform at Guru Amardas’ gurdwara at Goindwal was also killed.”

He continued, “My chacha, Bhai Chand, was a rababi at the Golden Temple. He had three houses in Amritsar, all of which were three stories high. He was a millionaire at that time. He used to live in Bhaiyyon ki gali, named after the rababi family. He became a pauper in Pakistan.”

Elaborating on his Sikh heritage, Hussain said his family’s ancestral gurdwara was Siyachal Sahib, which lies between Lahore and Amritsar. His father was a giani*, one who leads the congregation in prayer, who also gave lectures on Sikhism.

“My father was the gadi nasheen of the rababi seat there, which meant I would have taken over his position eventually,” he added.

But Partition changed all that. “Not only did we lose our money, we also lost our profession,” Hussain said. “While we knew the [Guru] Granth by heart, we knew nothing about being Muslim, besides the kalma. The Muslims had no interest in our profession. Thus, we began doing odd jobs, selling samosa, kheer, meat.”

However, Hussain soon found a second calling in qawwali, after receiving an invitation to a performance of Punjabi poet Najm Hosain Syed. The baithak was part of a weekly gathering of poets who recited and sang the works of Panjabi poets such as Bhai Gurdas, Shah Hussain and Bulleh Shah.

“At one of these meetings, not many years after Partition, I was invited to perform qawwali,” Hussain said. “In those early days, I struggled because my Urdu pronunciation was weak. I couldn’t even read the script, having been trained in Gurmukhi.

However, I practised and gradually mastered singing in Urdu. My financial condition also began improving.”

I asked him, “How similar or different are these two traditions, of kirtan and qawwali?”

He answered, “There is an old Panjabi saying, a hundred wise men sitting together will end up saying the same thing, while in a group of a hundred fools each one will say a different thing. Bulleh Shah reiterated what Nanak said.

Guru Arjan’s and Sultan Bahu’s message is the same as that of Shah Hussain. Their kalam overlaps. In fact, I would go to the extent of saying that Guru Nanak expounded the Quran. Thus, to answer your question, qawwali and kirtan are part of the same tradition**.”

A dying connection

But not everyone shares his view of syncretism.

Hussain’s son, sitting quietly with us as the interview progressed, suddenly jumped into the conversation. “A few Sikhs say Mardana was nothing but a funny character in Nanak’s Janamsakhis, who was always either hungry or thirsty,” he said.

“I would choose to disagree. It was Mardana who brought out the divinity of Nanak. It was for Mardana that Nanak turned sweet the bitter fruit of a Kekkar tree.”

Hussain had a personal story of his own about Mardana’s importance in the history of Sikhism. “Once, before Partition, my father was at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hassanabdal,” he said. “He was in the sacred pool taking dips when one Sikh got offended and complained to the office.

He accused my father of polluting the water. My father was summoned to the office. When questioned why he had taken a dip in the water, he asked the official, ‘Who did Nanak create this pool for? To quench Mardana’s thirst.

This is, therefore, Mardana’s pool and I being a rubabi am his descendant. Now let me ask this question, who are you to claim ownership over this pool?’”

He let out a loud chuckle at the end of this story, but quickly became serious as he spoke of his visit to India and to the Golden Temple in 2005, for the first time after Partition. “I wanted to perform at the Golden Temple,” he said. “My family had performed there for seven generations.

We are the descendants of Bhai Sadha and Madha, who were appointed at the Golden Temple by Guru Tegh Bahadur. Such was our honour that we used to receive a share from the offerings at the shrine, which was then equally distributed among all the rababi families.

Throughout Sikh history, the rababis have displayed their loyalty to the gurus. It was Bhai Bavak, a rababi with Guru Hargobind, who rescued his daughter, Bibi Veera, from the Turks, when no other Sikh dared cross into their territory.”

But Hussain’s wish to perform at the gurdwara was not to be fulfilled. “Our family has a deep connection with the Golden Temple but now it has become extremely difficult for a rababi to perform kirtan there. The officials there told me only Amritdhari could perform there,” he said, referring to Sikhs who have been initiated or baptised by taking amrit or “nectar water”.

He added, “I wanted to tell those officials that my ancestors had been performing kirtan here before Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh. There is no tradition of any rababi ever converting out of Islam. When the gurus never asked us to become Sikhs, then what right did these officials have?”

*Gian = knowledge with understanding – Giani – Het that has such knowledge

** Sikhi is linked to the Panjabi Muslim Sufi and Hindu Bhakti traditions

Haroon Khalid is the author of three books
Walking with Nanak, In Search of Shiva and A White Trail.

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Daily Times – Sikh pilgrims welcomed upon arrival in Lahore

Mustansar Abbas

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 12 April 2018. The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Secretary Muhammad Tariq on Thursday welcomed Sikh pilgrims upon their arrival in Lahore for Baisakhi celebrations.

Tariq presented flower bouquets to Sikh leader Sardar Gurmeet Singh and various other prominent pilgrims, who are on a three-day visit to Pakistan to commemorate birth of Khalsa, commonly known as Baisakhi.

The pilgrims reached Punjab’s provincial capital via Lahore’s Wahga Railway Station. From there, the 2,000 visitors will be taken to Hasan Abdal’s Panja Sahib Gurdwara under stern security.

The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee said that over 20,000 Sikh pilgrims from all around the world would visit Pakistan for Baisakhi celebrations. It was added that all visitors will be provided free of cost residence and food.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/227150/sikh-pilgrims-welcomed-upon-arrival-in-lahore/