Dawn – Kartarpur corridor opening for India’s Sikhs in November

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 17 September 2019. A corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims travelling to a shrine in Pakistan will open in early November, in time for one of the religion’s most sacred festivals.

The visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur, Pakistan, would be inaugurated on Nov 9, just ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak on 12 Nov 2019, Pakistani project director Atif Majeed said on Monday.

The project is a rare recent example of cooperation between the two nuclear powers, who came close to war in February following a militant attack on police in India-held Kashmir. India revoked the special status of its portion of the disputed territory last month, inflaming relations once again.

The Sikh minority community in India’s northern state of Punjab and elsewhere has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just over the border in Pakistan. The temple marks the site where the guru died.

To get there, travellers currently must first secure hard-to-get visas, travel to Lahore or another major Pakistani city and then drive to the village, which is just four kilometres from the Indian border.

Instead of visas, the Sikh pilgrims will be given special permits to access the shrine.

Indian pilgrims will pay Pakistan $20 to use the corridor, which includes roadways, an 800-metre bridge over the River Ravi and an immigration office.

Up to 5,000 Indians will be allowed access daily, with plans to eventually double the capacity, Majeed said.


The Hindu – Hindu girl found dead in hostel room in Pakistan

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan. 17 September 2019. Chandni belonged to Ghotki, the district which was in the news since Sunday after three cases against 218 rioters were filed for vandalising properties, including a mandir.

A Pakistani Hindu dental college student was found dead in her hostel room in Pakistan’s Sindh province with a rope tied to her neck, a media report said on Tuesday.

Namrita Chandni, a final-year student of Bibi Asifa Dental College in Larkana district, was found lying on a cot by her friends on Monday with a rope tied to her neck. Her room locked from inside, The Express Tribune reported.

Chandni belonged to Ghotki, the district which was in the news since Sunday after three cases against 218 rioters were filed for vandalising properties, including a temple.

Widespread protests erupted in Ghotki on Sunday after an FIR was filed against the principal of Sindh Public School on the complaint of Abdul Aziz Rajput, a student’s father who claimed that the teacher had committed blasphemy by his anti-Islam remarks.

Chandni’s friends grew worried when she did not respond to their knocks on the door for several minutes.

She was neither responding to the knocking at the door nor to our shouts, one of her friends told the police.

The hostel’s watchman later broke open the door and found her dead, the report said.

Police is yet to ascertain whether the girl committed suicide or was murdered.

The girl’s body has been shifted to the district headquarter hospital for postmortem, but the police awaited her parents to arrive from Karachi for their consent.

College’s Vice Chancellor Anila Attaur Rehman said the incident appeared to be one of suicide but the police and the medical team will be able to ascertain the actual cause of death after the postmortem.


Dawn – Under PTI, a better law for Pakistan’s Christians

The ruling party is about to propose a historic legislation that will improve the lives of over four million citizens.

Yaqoob Khan Bangash, Updated 3 days ago

In the upcoming session of the National Assembly, the Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari is supposed to present a proposed Christian Marriage and Divorce Act, 2019 for adoption. If passed, this bill will repeal and replace the Christian Divorce Act, 1869 and the Christian Marriage Act, 1872.

After nearly 150 years, the laws governing Christians in Pakistan might be revised. Christians may make a mere five per cent of the population of Pakistan, but these two laws deeply affected the lives of almost all of the four million strong Christian population in the country, and it is high time that they are updated.

Ameen Masih

The impetus for a change in the law started when in late 2016, a Christian by the name of Ameen Masih approached the Lahore High Court for relief.

His prayer was not related to any discrimination by the majority community, or lack of basic rights, or even a plea for protection against an often-misused law. He approached the court in order to be able to seek a divorce from his wife without accusing her of adultery.

In his petition, Masih contented that while his marriage had broken down, he did not want to allege that his wife had committed adultery to obtain a divorce.

He prayed that Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act, which stipulated that the then Indian courts follow the position of the English Divorce courts, should be made available to him, under which the provisions of the English Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 would apply, permitting him to get divorce from his wife on the grounds of the breakdown of marriage.

Section 7, however, had been omitted from the Act by the Federal Laws Ordinance, 1981 under General Zia-ul-Haq, and since then the main grounds for divorce for Christian men remained very limited and largely involved an allegation of adultery or conversion.

Thus, the petitioner argued that such a situation was not only against fundamental rights, but also forced the petitioners to lie. Masih’s petition brought to the fore critical issues related to the Christian Divorce Act and the Christian Marriage Act, those nearly 150-year-old statutes that had continued almost untouched in Pakistan despite independence.

The British and personal law

These two laws were the result of British legislation during the Raj. When the British came to India, they saw it as a set of different religious communities, ignoring other distinctions of caste, region, ethnicity.

Problematic as this ordering was, it gave rise to the notion of personal law in India. This meant that in ‘personal’ matters, marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance, the religious law of a particular community would be followed, while in other matters, common law would prevail.

This was, of course, a major limitation for well-formulated codes like the Sharia, but short of picking the law of a certain religious community wholesale and imposing it on the rest of India, the British thought that this was the most suitable manner in which religious sensibilities could be assuaged and also a common code devised for civil and criminal matters that do not come under the purview of personal law.

Thus, in the years following, the British enacted several personal laws which governed different aspects for Parsis, Hindus, Muslims and also Christians. While these were religious pronouncements in a certain sense in that they regulated affairs according to religious principles, they were not religious laws per se.

Also read : Why divorce is close to impossible for Christians in Pakistan

In other words, these laws did not obliterate the different emphasises and interpretations of various sects within a religion, but created a general parameter within which interpretation of law could occur for members of a particular religious community. Case law was then supposed to further fine tune these provisions, and also allow for different interpretations between sects.

In terms of Christian personal law, the two major statutes introduced in India by the British were the Christian Divorce Act, 1869 and the Christian Marriage Act, 1872. Even though Christians were still a very small number in the British Indian Empire at that time, their growing numbers through mass conversions, and issue of irregularities, led to the enaction of these two laws.

Previously, English law directly applied to Christians in India. These new laws also largely followed the then British law, but created a provision for changes to be made if locally desired.

The law on marriage recognised the clergy of the Church of England, Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church, while allowing other ministers and even lay people to apply for a licence to solemnise marriages.

The divorce law, again, reflected contemporary England and only allowed it in the case of adultery, bigamy, rape, sodomy, bestiality or a combination thereof with desertion.

A section also allowed for a petition for divorce in case of conversion to another religion by a spouse, recognising the local reality in India.

2017 LHC judgment

Returning to the case of Ameen Masih, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, the then Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, in his judgment declared that since the 1981 law was under an undemocratic regime, and since no consultations were ever held with the Christian churches or leaders before its omission, the deletion of Section 7 from the Christian Divorce Act, 1869 was unconstitutional.

Therefore, he allowed the petition and permitted Masih to divorce his wife relying on the British law, which permitted it under the irretrievable breakdown of marriage provision.

More significantly, Justice Shah noted that while he had taken the views of the Christian churches in the matter, this law was a state, ie, civil, law that regulated the affairs of a religious community. Hence, it was in no way changing Biblical law (as some were alleging) or forcing any church to accept divorce under its provisions.

Also read: The spatial politics of Lahore’s Hindu temples

In fact, the Catholic Church does not recognise divorce at all, and neither this petition nor even the whole Act of 1869 has ever compelled it to accept the concept of divorce. Hence, purely religious law within denominations was not at all affected by this judgement and only the civil aspect was being changed.

While the judgement of Justice Shah gave relief to the petitioner, and made life easier for numerous others, it raised an important point: how could Pakistan, as an independent country, allow the law of another country to be followed with respect to the personal law of a certain community of its own citizens?

Christians in Pakistan are Pakistani citizens and almost 100% of them are of local origin. The small percentage of Anglo-Indians and Goans is also almost wholly Pakistani born, and so there is no reason for an alien connection for their personal law.

Where there are still connections between churches in Pakistan and the United Kingdom, the fact that Pakistani Christians were to be governed by English law in matters of divorce was not only an affront to their Pakistani identity, but also infringed upon their fundamental rights where they, as citizens, should have their laws enacted by their own parliament.

A new law

In the wake of the Masih case, serious attempts were made by the then government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to formulate revisions.

Led by Senator Kamran Michael, who was also a minister in the PML-N government, several rounds of consultations were held with Christians.

These meetings started in earnest with a large consultation in Islamabad on August 10, 2016 where 38 people participated in the discussion. This was followed by another large discussion forum in Lahore on April 4, 2017 where 56 people participated.

Thereafter, due to the increasingly unstable government and the looming elections, nothing concrete was achieved until the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government took office.

When the new minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari, came to the helm of affairs, she seriously took up the mantle of finally bringing the changes to light. She restarted the process of consultations and within a period of just about a year, held several consultations with Christian leaders over the Act.

Also read: The ongoing struggle of Punjabi Christians

Thus in total, the Ministry of Human Rights held nine such consultative meetings between 2016 and 2019 with members of the Christian community. In all of these meetings, several issues were raised, many revisions suggested and a number of amendments noted to the two Acts.

Simultaneously, several church leaders and Christian civil society organisations also began to hold their own consultations.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) formed in 1985 by the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Church of Pakistan and the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan led the way in creating a group of clerics and others, while organisations like the Centre for Social Justice and others brought together civil society leaders and human rights advocates together with religious leaders.

Thus, by the autumn of 2019, it was clear that a lot of work and thought had been given to the issue and a new draft for the Christian Marriage and Divorce Act, 2019 was prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights, keeping in view the several rounds of consultations and suggestions received from Christian leaders and activists throughout Pakistan.

Delicate process

While the consultative process was indeed commendable and the efforts of the Ministry of Human Rights and Minister Mazari laudable, several issues also came to the fore during the consultation process which exhibited its fraught nature.

First, usually an act of this type is shepherded by some members of parliament who either hail from the particular religious community, or represent it, or have a keen knowledge, either academic or practical, about it.

In this case, the parliamentary leadership fell mainly on the shoulders of the Christian members of parliament who had been appointed to their seats by party leaderships. Since these parliamentarians were never actually elected and got their positions through a party list, from the outset their legitimacy was under question.

While they were Christian by religious profession, this was their sole claim to representation. Almost all of them had no background in either social, educational or charity work that would make them stand out as natural leaders. Nearly all of them had risen in the ranks of a party due to patronage rather than support of the grassroots.

MNA Shunila Ruth herself pointed out this problem at a consultation, and noted that the only way she can advocate for Christian (and minority) rights is when she is fully supported by the community. Such support and therefore representation still needs to be worked on.

Moreover, almost all these Christian parliamentarians were unable to understand the nuances of both the Acts and failed to clarify and emphasise the actual nature of the old Acts and the reasons behind the proposed changes.

Of course, this has to do with the fact that there are only a handful of Christian members of either the National Assembly or the Senate, and so it would be unfair to expect them to understand the intricacies of a law which is civil but has religious implications.

Also read: In-depth: State of fear

Secondly, a major flaw in the process is that it is seen as primarily a religious issue, and so the consultations have focused heavily on Christian religious leaders. While it is true that the law will mainly deal with people professing the Christian faith, yet, as explained above, and very clearly in the judgment of Justice Shah, these laws are civil laws, not religious ones.

Therefore, while consultations with Christian religious leaders are fine, depending on their acquiescence for the proposed changes is not correct. This is because the proposed changes neither affect the particular law of churches and nor do these leaders need to accept these changes.

For example, the Catholic Church, worldwide and also in Pakistan, does not accept divorce. Hence, it has never accepted the provisions of the Christian Divorce Act, 1869 either and nor will it accept any version of it in the future. This is because Catholics around the world and in Pakistan are governed by the Canon Law of the Catholic Church.

The same is true for most mainline churches, like the Church of Pakistan and the Presbyterian Church, both of which have their own canon law that regulates such matters.

Furthermore, as has become apparent, any attempt to get a consensus among various Christian religious leaders over marriage and divorce is simply futile. This is because different denominations have very divergent views on the issues of marriage and divorce.

For example, the Catholic Church, as noted above, does not accept the concept of divorce under any circumstances. Instead, it uses the concept of annulment which, after due process, ends the marriage as if it never happened. On the issue of marriage, the Catholic Church sees it as a sacrament ordained by God, which can only be dissolved by death.

The Church of Pakistan, which largely follows the Church of England, also sees marriage as a sacrament but allows for divorce under certain circumstances. However, the Church of Pakistan does not allow for a divorcee to remarry as long as their earlier spouse is still alive.

Some Protestant churches also see marriage as an indissoluble covenant and only allow divorce on the basis of adultery. There are also divergent views on remarriage.

Moreover, while the Ministry of Human Rights wholeheartedly invited a very broad cross section of the Christian community for consultation, the reality was that very few of the religious leaders had any real claim of representation, and even among those who did, their numbers varied widely.

For example, the Catholic Church in Pakistan is the largest Christian church in the country, with over 50pc of the Christian population adhering to it. They are followed by the Church of Pakistan which claims another 25pc, while the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan counts another 10-15pc of the Christian population of the country.

The rest of the 15-20pc of the Christian population is spread over numerous, perhaps even thousands, of small denominations and house churches, which are almost impossible to count.

Therefore, bringing all of these religious leaders on the same platform and treating them the same cannot work as they do not represent a commensurate group of people and differ greatly in terms of numbers, organisation and stability.

Also read: What drives calls for giving Ahmadis a distinct identity

Thirdly, the involvement of NGOs in the process is certainly welcome and essential, but there are severe limitations as to their ability in helping the process. This is largely because most NGOs which either focus on Christians in Pakistan or are Christian-led, focus on issues of human rights.

Almost all such NGOs are ill-equipped to aid in the process of the revision of laws on marriage and divorce. Very few of them have any lawyers associated with them, and even then very few legal experts have an understanding of the development of Christian marriage and divorce laws both in Pakistan and abroad.

Among the few who have an understanding of such issues are Jennifer Jivan of the Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi, Joseph Francis of Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement and Peter Jacob of the Centre for Social Justice. Besides them, and a few others, there are hardly any people in the NGO sector who have any competence to comment on such issues.

Furthermore, each of the three groups, political leaders, church leaders and the NGOs, had an expectation that their views would prevail solely, but the job of the ministry was and is to listen to everyone, propose a law that takes into consideration all the recommendations instead of allowing one section to dominate the other, as well as to ensure that the law corresponds well with Pakistan’s other laws and human rights regulations.

Therefore, while consultations were and are essential, the ministry has the final say in the version of the bill that will be presented in parliament.

The ministry, of course, has to explain its position, and perhaps a position paper is due in this regard, but needs to also ensure that a law is indeed presented in parliament and enacted.

Provisions and revisions of the proposed Act

The current draft of the Act brings to the fore some needed changes after revisions. Major among them is the raising of the marriage age for both men and women to 18 years. While the determination of marriage age is of some controversy in Islamic legal circles, Christian thought and theology is unanimous about the age of consent.

Furthermore, it proposes that both the husband and wife have the same grounds for divorce. Previously, the husband could only petition the court for divorce when the wife had committed adultery. Now, there is an allowance for both the husband and the wife to petition the court for divorce for a larger number of reasons.

At first, there were several critical issues that remained unaddressed. However, once revisions were suggested to the Minister of Human Rights, she immediately examined them and incorporated the changes in the proposed Act.

Personally speaking, I was amazed at the level of personal interest, keenness and receptivity the minister showed in this regard. The legislation has certainly come this far due to the personal efforts of the minster and she must be commended for it.

Also read: 5 gurdwaras that could be made part of Kartarpur Corridor

Since I was deeply involved in these new revisions, let me explain a few of them, all of which have been accepted by the ministry and incorporated in the proposed Act.

First, a major revision in the proposed Act was the removal of the definition of a Christian. While it might be possible to come up with a definition that most churches accept, the view was that it was not a civil issue and therefore best left to the individual churches and the conscience of the people.

With having seen the experience of the majority community in this country in defining who belongs to a religion, it was important that such fissures are not introduced into a small community, where such issues could end up being equally explosive.

Secondly, the revision allowed for the solemnisation of Christian marriages in places other than a church or chapel. This was added to recognise the present reality where marriages take place not only in churches but marriage halls, houses and even in destination weddings.

Thirdly, the proposed Act has removed all references to the Registrar General of Births, Marriages and Deaths. While this office has historical significance and the office still remains, the law in force in the country stipulates that a marriage be first registered at the local Union Council and then at the National Database and Registration Authority offices.

Harmonising the registration of Christian marriages, something which the Bishop Emeritus of Lahore Alexander John Malik had even taken to the Supreme Court, has to be in accordance with the prevailing law and in consonance with how marriages of other communities are registered by the state.

Fourthly, in the provision for divorce, the revision introduced the notion of violence as understood in the modern sense. This was a major human rights intervention in making the law more equitable and women friendly.

There are several instances where violence is not just physical but psychological, economic and otherwise, and the recognition of its grave nature is an essential human right.

Thus, the definition of violence was introduced in this Act as grounds for divorce, to include “any offence committed against the human body of the aggrieved person including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, sexual violence, psychological abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cybercrime.”

Fifthly, in the provision for divorce, the revision added that a lack of understanding of matrimonial rights and obligations could also lead to dissolution of marriage.

Reflecting the provision in Catholic Canon Law, which is also present in Anglican Canon Law and in the law of other churches, this provision notes that a lack of understanding of what marriage actually entails, the responsibilities towards the spouse, children and the family, could also lead to an end of the marriage.

The proposed Act, therefore, not only reflects similar provisions in the Canon Law but, for the first time, provides it to Christians in the civil law of Pakistan.

Sixthly, the revision improved the language of the proposed Act and brought it in line with current terminologies. It removed words like ‘idiot’ and ‘lunatic’ as grounds for an annulment and replaced it with ‘mental disorder’ to cover a wide range of mental and psychological issues.

This is a recognised ground for annulment both in the Catholic and Anglican Churches as well as most other mainline Christian churches throughout the world.

Seventhly, the revision focused on the issue of alimony the woman receives as part of the interim or final settlement. In the earlier draft, it was fixed at one-fifth, which was thought to be too less.

Raising it to “at least one-fourth”, the revision ensured that, at the very least, one-fourth of the husband’s income should go for the upkeep of the former wife and children, and that the court, keeping in view the reality of the situation, might even increase it as it sees fit.

Also read: How shrines helped indigenise Islam and Christianity in South Asia

And finally, the revision removed the remnant of Article 7 of the Christian Divorce Act, 1869 that had survived as Article 49 in the proposed Act, stipulating that the provisions of this proposed Act were to be read in conformity with the principles and rules of the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Court in England.

Since Pakistan is now an independent country with its own laws, and also because such a reference infers that the Pakistani Christian community is in some ways foreign, the whole article was deleted.

These and some other changes accepted by the ministry in the proposed Act made it modern, comprehensive and women friendly. This revision was led by an expert team which included, besides me, Bishop Emeritus of Lahore Alexander John Malik and Peter Jacob.

Several others also gave their input in the process, including lawyer Jamshed Rahmatullah, Vicar General of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Diocese Asif John, Fahmida Saleem of the Christian Study Centre, NCJP’s executive director Cecil Shane Chaudhry and Jennifer Bennette.

The strength of this group was that it was a mixed group of religious leaders, scholars, legal experts and activists who had the expertise and experience to comment on such proposed legislation.

The revision proposed by this group was not church or activist/NGO-led. They were led by a deep understanding of Christian thought, a knowledge of the laws of various churches, decades of pastoral experience and an ability to work with the ministry to make the proposed law more comprehensive.

No more delay

The openness with which the Ministry of Human Rights embraced these revisions certainly shows their eagerness to ensure that a holistic and good law is presented before parliament.

All laws in a country are a work in progress and that is why we have the parliament. All legislation is proposed and passed with good intentions, but time, more knowledge and experience mandates its improvement.

The proposed Act might still have some minor issues, but those small things should not keep it from being presented in parliament and passed into law. If there are critical issues that come up later, amendments can certainly be brought in at a later stage.

This is certainly a historic and much needed legislation and directly affects the lives of over four million citizens of Pakistan. Any more delay in the presentation of the bill will only lead to more suffering.

Are you a minority in Pakistan? Share your experiences with us at

Yaqoob Khan Bangash is a Chevening Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. He is the author of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.


Dawn – Binding resolutions

Ahmer Bilal Soofi

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 14 September 2019. In a recent seminar in Islamabad on the Kashmir dispute, a senior official remarked that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on Kashmir were passed under Chapter VI of the UN Charter and not under Chapter VII, and are therefore not binding but only recommendatory.

This view needs to be corrected.

The resolutions passed on Kashmir from 1947 to 1957 cannot be termed as recommendatory only. What we need to be clear about is that, in its initial years, the practice of the UNSC was not to mention the title of the chapter under which it was passing the resolution.

During this time, it was the content and the substance of the resolution that would determine the nature of implementation.

If one looks at the UNSC’s practice in its first decade of existence, only a handful of resolutions mention the title of the chapter, whereas the majority of resolutions that were acted upon by the member states did not mention any reference to a chapter of the UN Charter.

The states’ practice seemed to be that the nature of recommendations and measures suggested or decided by the UNSC would be determinative of the chapter or chapters under which the resolution was passed.

The resolutions of UNSC passed in respect of the Kashmir dispute belong to this era of UNSC practice. Hence one finds that, in the 17 resolutions passed by the UNSC during 1947 to 1957 on the Kashmir dispute, none makes a specific reference to the chapter under which it was passed.

With this background, to assume that all resolutions relating to the Kashmir dispute were passed under Chapter VI would be an incorrect conclusion to draw. After all, there is no reference to either Chapter VI or Chapter VII in any of the 17 resolutions.

The UN resolutions on Kashmir of 1947 to 1957 cannot be termed as merely recommendatory.

Most of the resolutions passed on the subject of the Kashmir dispute provide for very specific steps to be taken by both India and Pakistan. For example, UNSC Resolution 47 (adopted on April 21, 1948) spans over four pages.

It refers to the earlier Resolution 39 (adopted on Jan 20, 1948) whereby the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was established and authorised to investigate the dispute of the facts submitted for resolution to the UNSC.

The setting up of an independent body by the UNSC is a specific step that was acted upon, and it is not possible to imagine a resolution that establishes a standalone body be viewed as being only recommendatory in character.

In Resolution 47, the mandate of UNCIP was extended and additional powers were conferred on it. A clear and elaborate programme was laid down for the activities of the commission. The resolution also addresses the governments of India and Pakistan, and directed progressive demilitarisation.

It also called for the establishment of a provisional government. The resolution is very minute in its details and passed with a clear intention of leaving no specifics out. The nature, intendment and impeccability of the resolution lead ineluctably to the conclusion that it was meant to be implemented by both states.

It will be defying logic to assume that the UNSC resolution establishing UNCIP (which, further exercising delegated powers, passed a resolution on 09 November 1948, having three parts dealing with the ceasefire line) is merely recommendatory, when the same has been acted upon!

This resolution led to the Cease-Fire Line Agreement (Karachi Agreement 1949). These later developments confirm that the resolutions were binding in nature and were operationalised in a manner that could only be imputed to binding resolutions.

Another way of confirming their mandatory nature is to view these resolutions as decisions of the UNSC. The relevant portions of the said resolutions were binding on India and Pakistan under Article 25 of the UN Charter which provides as follows, “The members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter”.

The ICJ in its Namibian Advisory Opinion also supported the position that a UNSC resolution would be binding where the language, discussion preceding the passage of the resolution, and the provisions of the UN Charter referred to in the resolution indicated that it was binding.

Based on the ICJ’s opinion, to view resolutions on Kashmir as being merely recommendatory places an unnecessarily restrictive interpretation that is belied by the specific nature of measures which have been decided in these various resolutions on Kashmir.

It may be highlighted that the UNSC has now changed its practice and specifically mentions the chapter pursuant to which it is passing or adopting the resolution. For example, UNSC Resolution 1373 of 2001 relating to terrorism mentions Chapter VII just before the operative paragraphs.

Likewise, Resolution 1267 of 1999 relating to Al Qaeda and the Taliban mentions in its preamble a similar reference. Further, Resolution 1540 of 2004 addressing the issue of non-proliferation makes it a point to state that it is acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

But this is a more recent trend, which was not the case in the practice of the UNSC while passing resolutions during the first few years after 1945.

Based on the above, the resolutions passed in the case of Kashmir have a binding character and cannot be referred to as exclusively recommendatory in nature. Pakistan should approach the UN with absolute confidence that it remains the responsibility of the UNSC to implement its binding resolutions.

Whether Pakistan has the political clout to have the resolutions enforced remains another matter, but from a legal point of view Pakistan’s policymakers should be clear among themselves that the UNSC resolutions on the Kashmir dispute should not be de-emphasised on the grounds that they are simply recommendatory.

Ahmer Bilal Soofi is an ex-caretaker federal law minister, and president of the Research Society of International Law.



Hindustan Times – Next Punjab cabinet meeting at Dera Baba Nanak on 19 September

Dera Baba Nanak – Panjab – India, 13 September 2019. To ensure that it can monitor preparations for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the first Sikh master, Guru Nank, the Punjab cabinet will hold its next meeting in Dera Baba Nanak on September 19.

This historic town in Gurdaspur district, along the India-Pakistan international border, only 7 km from Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur in Pakistan, was the last resting place of Guru Nanak. The celebrations that began a year ago are to culminate with a grand event in November at Sultanpur Lodhi.

“The chief minister has scheduled the next cabinet meeting at Dera Baba Nanak,” said Punjab co-operation and jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa during his visit to Government Senior Secondary School for Girls in the town on Friday.

He added that the 700-strength school will be converted into a smart, model school at a cost of Rs 40 lakh.

On the cabinet meeting, he added, “We will review the progress of projects such as the Kartarpur corridor and also of work done on sprucing up Dera Baba Nanak.”

He added, “Beautification projects are in full swing in the town; a park is being developed. A metallic statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh will also be erected in the main chowk of the town. Another Rs 7 crore have been sanctioned for the development of the main-street.”

He added the town was being developed as a city of fragrance by planting different kinds of flowers. “After completing his Udasis (religious journeys), Guru Nanak gave the message of doing kirat (work honestly to earn) and even cultivated land here. To commemorate this, we want a skill development centre to be established here.”

On the row between the state government and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) over joint celebrations of the anniversary, Randhawa said, “I will not indulge in religion-based politics. This politics is done by Badals through the SGPC.

I will continue to do sewa (service) assigned to me.”


Dawn – Police brutality

Editorial, 12 September 2019. In recent days, Punjab has emerged as a territory occupied by a brutal police force. The response to a series of custodial deaths has either been outright ridiculous, as in the case of banning smartphones to prevent any unwanted footage from escaping premises that are manned by policemen, or confused and disorderly.

The latest gory chapter began with the appearance of Salahuddin Ayubi, the ‘ordinary Pakistani’ who was nabbed while allegedly attempting to steal from an ATM machine and who later died while under police interrogation. Given the impunity with which the law enforcers operate, it is no surprise that others have since also made the list of victims of police brutality.

The custodial deaths have caused a stir, with many demanding police reforms in a country where accountability is still selective and where the institutions supposedly meant to monitor excesses against the people are either completely ignored or woefully underutilised.

In this regard, the National Human Rights Commission, which has been dysfunctional for many months now, is a case in point. The IG Punjab is scheduled to appear before the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights today, amid apprehensions that this opportunity for lawmakers to propose improvements may be lost because of the existing polarisation in parliament.

It is apparent that the PPP-proposed Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, 2015, did not catch the fancy of a divided National Assembly, which failed to pass the piece of legislation in the stipulated 90 days.

But lawyers say that the laws are very much there. There are sufficient legal provisions in place, not least courtesy of Police Order 2002, which governs the workings of the force in Punjab. And a basic on-the-spot remedy recalls that a magistrate can be asked to investigate custodial deaths under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The government of Punjab has moved towards establishing some kind of a larger board, comprising people from various walks of life, to oversee police functioning.

Also, as opposed to a system where the violation of rules is an ailment exclusively afflicting low-ranking policemen, senior members in the hierarchy have now been warned that it is they who will be held responsible for any excesses committed under their watch.

These may all be useful ways of dealing with an increasingly desperate situation, and the suggestion that everyone should be bound by the existing laws makes eminent sense.

But what is also needed is for both the people and the authorities to avoid the strange logic that accepts, justifies and condones brutal and illegal police violence in all its manifestations inside the thanas, the improvised lockups and indeed in public spaces.

The job of clearing the mess has to begin somewhere. Why not begin at the place where it hurts and bleeds the most, ie right at the top?


The Tribune – FIR against Muslim man quashed in Pakistan Sikh girl case

Lahore – Panjab – India, 11 September 2019. Police in Pakistan’s Punjab province have quashed the FIR against a Muslim man and others for allegedly abducting a Sikh teenage girl and converting her to Islam after both families signed a written agreement, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Jagjit Kaur, the 19-year-old daughter of a Sikh granthi of Nankana Sahib, was allegedly abducted by Mohammad Hasaan of her locality in Nankana Sahib, some 80 kms from Lahore in August. He allegedly married her later.

“The families of Kaur and Hassan have signed a written document agreeing to resolve the matter between them. Kaur’s family has withdrawn all charges against Hassan and his family members and friends, thereby, the FIR against them stands quashed,” a senior police officer of Punjab police told PTI on Wednesday.

He said Hassan and a couple of his other family members have also withdrawn their protective bails in the wake of the agreement.

A video of the girl’s family had gone viral on social media in which one of her family members had alleged that a group of men attacked their house and she was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and was married Hassan, triggering concerns in Pakistan as well as in India.

On 29 August, the FIR was filed against six people for allegedly abducting and forcibly converting Kaur to Islam. The police arrested Arsalan, a friend of Hassan.

Kaur has been to sent to Lahore’s Darul Aman (shelter home) on a court order after she told the judge that she married Hassan of her locality with her own free will.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Governor Chaudhry Sarwar were forced to intervene in the matter after the Sikh community reacted angrily over the alleged abduction of the girl from the community.

“In the agreement it has been decided that Hassan will not force Kaur to stay with him and will divorce her if she asks for it. Kaur’s family has also pledged that it will not harm the girl by any means on her return to the home,” the official said.

The girl is still in shelter home in Lahore as she is not “mentally prepared” at the moment to return to her parents’ home in Nankana Sahib, the police official claimed.

“It has also been agreed that Kaur will not see Hassan or vice a versa even he doesn’t divorce her,” the official said.

India had voiced its concern with Pakistan over the issue of her abduction and forced conversion to Islam and sought for “immediate remedial action”.

Ahead of opening of the Kartarpur Corridor and 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Pakistani government cannot afford annoyance of local Sikhs which created tension among the Sikhs and Muslims in Nankana Sahib, the official said.

Poor Jagjit Kaur, victim of Panjabi culture
Man in Blue


Dawn – Scholar finds engravings of Indus script on stones in Khirthar mountains

Professor Aziz Kingrani claims to have discovered 60 symbols resembling the script etched in stones

Qurban Ali Khushik

Updated 2 days ago

Indus script and its variant have been discovered etched in stones in Khirthar Range of mountains near Wahi Pandhi town by research scholar Professor Aziz Kingrani.

The script has so far been found only in Moenjodaro and it was the first time it had been discovered outside the ruined city, according to the professor.

He told Dawn on Sunday that he had discovered 60 symbols resembling those Indus seal script engraved on rocks in Khirthar mountains and said according to Asko Parpola, the Indus script was invented during 2600 BC to 1900 BC.

He said that the area where the Indus script was found was approximately at a distance of 200 kilometres from Moenjodaro along the old trade routes that were in use at that time and led from Sindh to western countries.

He said the Indus seals script and its variant including its inverse and obverse signs inscribed on rocks could be considered a piece of evidence for existence of linkage of urban society of the Indus Valley Civilisation with its towns, villages and other remote areas.

He explained that probably, Indus seal script or writing system of Indus Civilisation was prevalent in these localities during the period of Indus Civilisation in the third millennium BC.

And possibly, later, due to invention of other early scripts like as Brahmi script the trend of the usage of Indus writing system gradually disappeared, he suggested.

He proclaimed that it was the first time the Indus script had been discovered engraved on rocks in Sindh by him and believed that the inscriptions of Indus script had been commissioned from Bronze Age to early Iron Age.


Hindustan Times – Row over Sarna, DSGMC nagar kirtans: PSGPC gives nod to Sarna-led nagar kirtan in Pakistan, ‘ignores’ DSGMC

Anil Sharma

New Delhi – India, 08 September 2019. The Pakistan government has given permission to former president of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Manage Committee (DSGMC), Paramjit Singh Sarna, to hold nagar kirtan (Sikh religious procession) from Wagah border to Nankana Sahib, birth place of Guru Nanak, in Pakistan.

The procession will be accorded warm welcome, said Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) chief Satwant Singh in a video posted on his Facebook page on Saturday.

Sarna has planned the procession from Gurdwara Nanak Piao in New Delhi to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on October 28. Similarly, DSGMC’s president and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Rajouri Garden, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, has also planned a separate nagar kirtan from Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi to Nankana Sahib on 13 October.

This has been the point of contention for the two separate groups of the Sikh community in the national capital.

“Pakistan government had already given permission to Sarna for holding the procession. The procession will reach Nankana Sahib through Wagah border on October 31.

A meeting of PSGPC and Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) was held with the government of Punjab on August 27. It was decided in the meeting that PSGPC, Sikh sangat and Pakistan government will welcome the procession. Pakistan government will also provide all kind of facility to the sangat of the procession,” said the PSGPC chief.

He also appealed in the video to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), jathedars of five Takhts (five temporal seats of Sikhs), and DSGMC to join the Sarna-led procession.

Satwant Singh, however, did not mention a word about the procession being organised by the DSGMC though it is scheduled on 13 October, much earlier than the procession led by Sarna.

On Saturday, Sarna was in Amritsar. He showed a copy of permission from Pakistan government and said, “Only we have permission from Pakistan government to hold the procession while Sirsa has been fooling the Sikh sangat.

I will complain to the jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh, for taking action against Sirsa, who has not received any nod from Pakistan government regarding his procession.”

Earlier, during the SGPC’s nagar kirtan, which was taken out from Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on August 31, a confusion had erupted on 30 August in the neighbouring country over the procession’s permission when ETPB feigned ignorance about Sikh institutions, SGPC and DSGPC, saying they had no official communication about the procession.

However, on 31 August, the Pakistan government gave permission for the procession but not before heated arguments ensued between officials of the ETPB and heads of the SGPC and DSGMC.

Taking to HT, Sirsa said, “Sarna is playing into the hands of Pakistan just to defame Indian government. He has not followed the proper procedure and had not sought permission from Indian government. We are the one following the rules and regulations. We have applied through our government and we are expected to get the permission within next few days.”

“When Sarna was president of DSGMC, it had applied to Union home ministry for taking out a similar procession in 2005. We have followed the same rules. When we had taken out the procession from Nankana Sahib on August 31, the same procedure was followed,” he added.

He said, “Sarna has not taken permission from Indian government and he might face obstacle in taking out the procession to Pakistan. And it may give Sarna a chance to defame Indian government.”


Dawn – Pakistan rejects India’s efforts to portray ‘normalcy’ in occupied Kashmir

Pakistan “categorically rejected” on Sunday Indian government’s attempts to “portray normalcy in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir”.

Naveed Siddiqui

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 08 September 2019. A press release issued by the Foreign Office today said that despite the Indian government’s claims, occupied Kashmir was still under a lockdown while Kashmiri leaders remained under house arrest.

“Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the largest prison in the world with the heaviest deployment of Indian occupation forces since the coercive, unilateral and illegal Indian actions of August 5, 2019 aimed at altering the internationally recognised disputed status of IOJ&K and changing its demographic structure to preempt the results of a UN plebiscite,” the press release read.

The Foreign Office also termed Indian reports that portrayed two farmers, who had inadvertently crossed the border in August, as terrorists as a “farcical attempt”.

“This was despite the fact that the incident was discussed during the weekly military hotline contact between both sides on August 27, 2019 when Indian authorities acknowledged that they were inadvertent crossers and informed Pakistan that routine formalities are taking place after which they will be returned.”

On August 21, two farmers in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, identified as Muhammad Nazeem, 21, and 30-year-old Khalil Ahmed, had unintentionally crossed the Line of Control near Hajipir while they were out for cutting grass.

Last month, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar had claimed that Pakistan was trying to create “an alarmist situation” after Indian media, citing unidentified Indian intelligence sources, said that Pakistan-trained commandos have allegedly entered Indian waters to attack port facilities in western Gujarat state.

Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor had rubbished the claims. Yesterday, the military’s media wing had also issued a press release on the matter and said that the Indian media’s reports were “yet another attempt to fabricate facts”.

The Foreign Office press release issued today highlighted that Islamabad had “sensitised the international community” about India’s efforts to raise a false flag operation to divert attention from the situation in occupied Kashmir and blame Pakistan for “[India’s] indefensible actions”.

The statement also denounced “a false and fabricated story”, where Indian authorities had “blamed deaths of some Kashmiris in [the occupied territory] on ‘Pakistani militants'”. The statement referred to a briefing by Indian army officials that was held on 04 September.

Kashmir issue is a dispute left from history

A Chinese delegation led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, which came to Pakistan on a two-day visit, said that Beijing “opposes any unilateral actions that [would] complicate the situation” in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, a press statement said on Sunday.

A joint press release issued by foreign ministries of Pakistan and China, said that the former briefed the Chinese delegation on the situation in India-occupied Kashmir, that has been under a strict lockdown for the past month, “including [Islamabad’s] concerns, position, and urgent humanitarian issues”.

The Chinese side assured Pakistan that it was paying “close attention” to the situation developing in the occupied territory, the press release said. Chinese delegation further said that the “Kashmir issue is a dispute left from history” and must be solved according to the United Nations resolutions.