Dawn – Back to governance

Maleeha Lodhi

Op/Ed 25 January 2021. Despite sporadic agitational activity by the opposition, Prime Minister Imran Khan has enough political space to consider acting on a number of fronts to repurpose his government.

His government has a window of opportunity to take initiatives and focus on governance rather than the opposition. This will also demonstrate that it has gone past the phase of its unifocal preoccupation with the opposition.

While PDM has continued efforts to mount political pressure it has been unable to force a crisis to challenge the PTI government or warrant its full-time attention.

This means the government has the chance to get down to serious business and set, as well as, elaborate its agenda for the year ahead.

Among the steps it might consider are:

1. engage more actively at the leadership level in managing the pandemic and laying out the vaccination plan
2. recast the cabinet and its team in Punjab
3. reach out to the business community to encourage investment and boost productivity and growth;
4. plan for comprehensive civil service reform;
5. undertake a wide-ranging review of foreign policy.

Although the Covid-19 situation is not as alarming as it is in other countries, including in the neighbourhood, this is no reason to be sanguine about the future.

Especially so because examples from elsewhere show that cases surge when complacency or fatigue sets in, or when new variants enter the country.

A hands-on approach by the leadership is needed in a number of areas: robust public messaging (virtually absent now), increased testing, as well as ensuring SOP compliance by businesses/ markets/ educational institutions.

Above all, the government must ensure that procurement of vaccines is swiftly done. It is already behind the curve on this count.

There is little clarity about which vaccines will be secured given the global challenge of unequal access with richer countries monopolising initial supplies.

Yet to be explained is how vaccines will be rolled out across the country. The Pakistan Medical Association has also asked for clarification and criticised the government for lack of plans to vaccinate people.

The prime minister should himself lay out the national vaccination plan as this is obviously the only way to exit from the pandemic.

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

https://www.dawn.com/news/1603519/back-to-governance

Supreme Court holding daily hearing in Pearl murder case, SHC told

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 21 January 2021. The Supreme Court is conducting day-to-day hearings on an appeal filed by the Sindh government challenging the decision of the Sindh High Court on the appeals of four men in US journalist Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder case.

Advocate General Sindh Salman Talibuddin submitted this before a two-judge SHC bench during the hearing of an application moved by the four men seeking contempt proceedings against the provincial authorities for keeping them in detention despite their acquittal in the case.

Petitioners Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh – Fahad Naseem – Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil through their lawyers had moved the SHC last month seeking contempt proceedings against the provincial and jail authorities for not setting them free despite court orders.

In the last hearing, the bench had asked the provincial law officer to advance arguments as to whether the Supreme Court’s order still holds the field regarding detention of the four men.

On Wednesday, the AG appeared in court and submitted that the appeal against the acquittal of the petitioners was fixed before the SC, which was proceeding with the same on a day-to-day basis.

By consent of the parties, the bench adjourned the hearing till 03 February.

Additional chief secretary for home Dr Mohammad Chachar, special secretary for home Aamir Abbasi and SSPs of the central prisons of Karachi and Sukkur Raja Mumtaz and Muhammad Hassan Sahito appeared before the bench.

An application for dispensation of attendance of the chief secretary for the day because of personal work was filed. The bench allowed the application.

On 07 January the provincial law officer had informed the SHC that the SC while hearing the appeals filed by the Sindh government and parents of the slain journalist against the SHC order for setting aside the trial court order on 28 September 2021 had issued a restraining order against the release of the petitioners till next hearing.

However, he had claimed that the restraining order of the SC still held the field since it had not been expressly vacated or varied by the apex court.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602608/sc-holding-daily-hearing-in-pearl-murder-case-shc-told

The News – PM Imran to visit South Waziristan tomorrow

Islamabad – Pakistan, 19 January 2021. Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to visit South Waziristan tomorrow (Wednesday) to attend a ceremony of Kamyab Jawan Programme as the chief guest.

The premier will participate in a ceremony of cheque distribution under the Kamyab Jawan Programme and will give cheques for loans to the youth of the area.

The prime minister will be accompanied by the chief minister and governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

PM Imran Khan will also be briefed about development projects in Waziristan.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/776640-pm-imran-to-visit-south-waziristan-tomorrow

Scroll.in – Ruttie: This biography reveals what we did not know about the woman who married Jinnah

An excerpt from ‘The Woman Who Stood Defiant: Ruttie Jinnah’

Saad S Khan & Sara S Khan

Book Excerpt, 20 January 2021. As Jinnah’s political lieutenant, Ruttie’s decision to marry Jinnah owed a lot to his politics, which is what had mesmerised her in the first place.

Hence her participation in Jinnah’s political activities began from Lucknow, well before their marriage.

Despite her father’s opposition, the young Ruttie attended the joint annual sessions of the Congress and the Muslim League, held in the city in December 1916.

Jinnah had joined the All India Muslim League in 1913, reportedly on Gokhale’s insistence, to bring Muslims into the fold of the mainstream nationalist struggle.

Within three years, he had become important enough to be elected as the All India Muslim League president for the Lucknow session. It was in this capacity that he signed the Lucknow Pact with his friend and Congress president Tilak.

It was to witness this glory that Ruttie had come down to Lucknow from Bombay.

By early 1918, she was Jinnah’s wife. Within a year of their marriage, Mrs Jinnah proudly saw the elevation of Jinnah as the overall president of the Muslim League in 1919.

Her husband’s new position meant that she would be seated with him on stage during public meetings of the Muslim League, just like she had been beside him in the Congress meetings.

Her Westernised attire would sometimes provoke the mullahs or the conservative Muslims. At the 1924 Muslim League annual session at the Globe Cinema, Bombay, for instance, some people asked the organisers who the woman was.

Jinnah’s political secretary, M C Chagla, had to tell the objectors that she was the Muslim League’s president’s wife, so they would be better off keeping their observations to themselves.

The incident is indicative of the fact that Mrs Jinnah was not just a passive companion cheering from the fence, but would share the limelight as well.

A contrast can also be drawn with the Congress meetings, where her dress would raise eyebrows, the Nagpur session four years earlier had shown that the Congress’s mindset was not as liberal as the Muslim League’s, at least when it came to women.

But more on the Nagpur session in the following chapters.

The couple was never underdressed, something they believed Gandhi had introduced in the public space. Both Jinnah and his wife staunchly opposed Gandhi’s antics of equating nationalism with minimal clothing of locally made cloth.

Mrs Jinnah was frank enough about her thoughts on this, leading Kanji Dwarkadas to quote another letter that Mrs Jinnah had written to him.

“I feel you had no business to be born in this world with ‘Dhoti’,” she wrote to him, adding that the “correct setting for nature of such fine sensibilities is a Sari, or a skirt, as the case may geographically require”.

One of the reasons the Muslims stood taller, politically speaking, in their interactions with the British was the dress sense the first couple had inculcated in them.

For decades to come, in any meeting between the three main political powerhouses, the Congress, the Muslim League and the British government, the latter two had their fine dressing to back them up in their arguments, while the Congress representatives made political statements in homespun clothing.

In almost all formal contact with the British government, Mrs Jinnah would be with her husband as long as she lived.

The visit of the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII, who had to abdicate his throne in 1936 over the Mrs Simpson affair) in late 1921 provides an interesting illustration of this.

His first royal tour to India was boycotted by the Congress, which the Jinnahs considered an unwise decision.

Greater still was their opposition to the Congress’s resorting to protests that put its supporters in harm’s way.

By 17 November 1921, the clashes with the police had left fifty-three Congress sympathisers dead and more than five hundred injured.

In contract, the Jinnahs’ commitment to always adhere to the law, engage in constructive dialogue with the government and discourage anything that might instigate violence, was very different from those of the apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi.

Mrs Jinnah strongly shared her husband’s disavowal of Congress politics.

She wanted home rule but could not countenance unconstitutional means. Mr and Mrs Jinnah find honourable mention in accounts of royal historians covering the tour.

As per British civil servant and historian Rushbrook Williams, “Mr Jinnah and his beautiful wife, Ruttie, met the prince on many occasions. I am sure that the prince learnt much from them.”

Mrs Jinnah used to be part of Jinnah’s contingent at political activities outside the purview of the Muslim League as well.

One such incident recounted by a top Khilafat leader, Adeel Abbasi, refers to a meeting of the Khilafat Movement, where Jinnah was also invited.

As the Jinnahs arrived at the venue, Mrs Jinnah might have alighted from the car first and walked towards the entrance. The volunteer at the gate asked to see her entry pass. In the meantime, Jinnah also arrived.

She said to him in English, “Jay, they are not letting me in, they want the entry pass.” Without a murmur, Jinnah gave his entry pass to her and she went in. Jinnah was left outside.

When this came to the notice of the prominent Khilafat leader Hakeem Ajmal Khan, he came out, apologised and brought Jinnah in.

The presence of women in politics was so rare then that organisers had not foreseen that a leader would come accompanied by his wife.

It also shows how important Mrs Jinnah’s participation in political activities was for her husband, who, when the situation arose, deferred to his wife being admitted first.

The Woman Who Stood Defiant: Ruttie Jinnah

Excerpted with permission from The Woman Who Stood Defiant: Ruttie Jinnah, Saad S Khan with Sara S Khan, Penguin India.

https://scroll.in/article/984505/ruttie-this-biography-reveals-what-we-did-not-know-about-the-woman-who-married-jinnah

Sikh24.com – Pakistan to offer free technical education to the children of Sikhs and Hindus

Sikh24 Asian Bureau

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 17 January 2021. From 2021 onwards, Pakistan’s federal government has decided to avail free technical education for the children of Sikh and Hindu nationals of Pakistan. The Evacuee Trust Property Board has taken this decision in Lahore’s board meeting under the presidency of ETPB’s chairman Dr Amir Ahmad.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board looks after the sacred shrines and religious properties of Sikhs and Hindus in Pakistan.

Interacting with the media, ETPB’s spokesperson Amir Hashmi said that all Sikh and Hindu children would be availed free technical education under Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji Scholarship.

“The children of Sikhs and Hindus, who are pursuing their education in other fields, will continue to receive their scholarships, i.e., PKR 10,000/- per month,” he added.

It is pertinent to note here that the Imran Khan-led Pakistan government has been generously addressing the concerns of its minorities. However, still, some incidents of “forceful conversion” of Sikh and Hindu girls have brought the working of the Pakistan government under a question mark.

BBC News – Hindu shrine desecration: Can Pakistan protect its religious minorities?

M Ilyas Khan

Islamabad – Pakistan, 12 January 2021. A century-old sacred Hindu shrine in Pakistan was destroyed by a Muslim mob in December – the second ransacking and desecration of the holy site.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has issued an order to officials in the north-western district of Karak to pave the way for rebuilding the Sri Param Hansji Maharaj Samadhi temple, but the attack has left the country’s Hindus feeling vulnerable and the government facing accusations that it is failing to protect the country’s religious minorities.

Pakistan is overwhelmingly Muslim, the Hindu community makes up less than 2% of the population. Prejudice against Hindus is ingrained.

The Hindus who attend the Sri Param Hansji Maharaj Samadhi were still in the process of rebuilding the site after the first attack, in 1997, after the Supreme Court finally issued a rebuilding order in 2015.

But in the process, the community bought and began renovating an adjacent house to provide a resting place for Hindu pilgrims, setting off a wave of anger among local Muslims convinced that the temple was being expanded.

In December, a rally was convened that was quickly whipped into a destructive mob.

How did the attack unfold?

The rally was convened on 30 December near the temple, and led by a local Muslim cleric, Maulvi Mohammad Sharif, who is affiliated with the religious party Jamiate Ulemae Islam and was the same cleric who led the attack on the temple in 1997.

According to witnesses, the cleric whipped up the crowd, inciting rally goers who then smashed in the walls of the temple with sledgehammers and set fire to it.

A report compiled by Pakistan’s Commission for Minority Rights after the attack found that precious ornaments were destroyed, as were ornate wooden doors and windows made from Burma teak and the carved white marble of the grave of a Hindu saint.

“The overall picture … was of utter devastation,” the report said.

Police and security guards had been stationed at the temple during the rally but failed to stop the mob. “They went with impunity,” said the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Gulzar Ahmed, after the attack, adding that the incident had caused “international embarrassment to Pakistan”.

Police arrested 109 people in relation to the attack, including Maulvi Mohammad Sharif, and suspended 92 police officials, including the superintendent of police and deputy superintendent of police who were on duty at the time.

“There were 92 police officials at the spot, but they showed cowardice and negligence,” admitted Sanaullah Abbasi, the local police inspector general.

There were no Hindus at the temple at the time, they travel to the site for religious purposes but none live at the site, and no-one was injured or killed.

Why is there a dispute?

Located in Teri village on a desert patch featuring dry hills, the temple was built in 1919, long before the British partition of India pushed many Hindus south to India and many Muslims north into newly-created Pakistan.

The site was the last resting place of Sri Param Hansji Maharaj, a Hindu saint who has a large following in Pakistan, India and elsewhere in the world.

Waseem Khatak, a researcher, teacher and journalist from the village, said the area had a large Hindu population which was mainly involved in trade, business and money-lending, and Hindus and Muslims lived side by side in a collective culture.

Sri Param Hansji Maharaj “knew the Quran by heart”, Mr Khatak said, “and would offer spiritual guidance to his Muslim followers by quoting from the book”.

Hindus made pilgrimages to the site from all over, but when the British instigated partition in 1947 the entire Hindu population of Teri village left, abandoning their properties.

The government set up a trust to take over and manage the properties they had left behind and occasional pilgrimages continued. The property of the shrine was left in the care of a disciple of the saint, who converted to Islam and became the caretaker.

But after the caretaker’s death in the 1960s, his sons sold the place to two local Muslim families. Access to the tomb became an arduous task, pilgrims had to pass through the privacy of two family homes to perform their rituals.

In the mid-1990s, the community bought one of the houses for easy access to the tomb. But the purchase happened at a time when local Muslim clerics enjoyed considerable influence with the Pakistani establishment.

In 1996, soon after the news about the house deal was broken to the clergy, Maulvi Mohammad Sharif declared the Hindu community “agents of the US and India” and led a mob to destroy the temple.

The destruction sparked a series of court cases that continued until 2015, when the Supreme Court finally ordered the restoration of the shrine, though on a much smaller piece of land inside one of the two houses.

Even then, the local government continued to delay funds for reconstruction. Frustrated, the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) rebuilt the shrine and widened and paved the street leading to it, paying from its own coffers.

What happens next?

As well as ordering the reconstruction of the temple, the Supreme Court has asked the local authorities to take tougher action against the police officials who were on duty during the attack.

One of the suspended policemen, who requested anonymity, told the BBC that the local police had intelligence reports before the attack that trouble was likely, but no-one thought it was worthwhile to counter the clergy.

“Given the developments in the region, the clerics are still relevant to our state policy,” he said. “If we cross their path, we may risk our jobs. So unless there are very clear instructions from above, we don’t do that. And this allows the more ambitious among them to take advantage.”

Members of the Hindu community say that restoration of a temple alone will not restore harmony. That would begin with changes to the education curriculum, which they say promotes apathy, even callousness towards non-Muslims.

“It is the failure of the system that a purely local dispute which could easily have been resolved in the light of the law and the constitution spiralled into a national and then an international issue,” said Haroon Sarab Diyal, a Hindu community leader based in Peshawar.

Just a week before the attack on the temple in December, a meeting of Pakistan’s Commission for Minority Rights concluded that a “visible improvement in the treatment of minorities” was needed in Pakistan. In a report issued after the attack, the commission concluded that there was still a way to go.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55545524

The Nation – Religious harmony in Pakistan

17 January 2021

Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi

Our dear homeland Pakistan is the most important country in the Islamic world and the first nuclear power in the Muslim world.

For the last four decades, Pakistan has been facing multiple challenges and its adversaries have been trying to portray it as a weak state that relies on others for its survival.

Indeed for a long time, Pakistan has been the victim of terrorism and sectarian violence, but that is now history. Whatever conspiracy is peddled against Pakistan, the reality is that it has successfully defeated terrorism.

Though Pakistan is now 90 percent out of the terrorism mess, international terrorist groups in Afghanistan are still conspiring to target Pakistan.

These terrorist organisations have been conspiring against Pakistan with Indian support. There are currently being reorganised by India but Pakistan’s security agencies are constantly thwarting their conspiracies.

The present government has a clear policy from day one to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism from Pakistan and make it a peaceful, stable and tolerant country.

It would not be wrong to say that the official status of Madaris education has been formally recognised after seventy years.

In the past, the degrees of Madaris Educational Boards were recognised only as honorary degrees and were considered equivalent to MA Islamic Studies or MA in Arabic, that too by a few government departments.

Many simply did not recognise them. However, as a result of continuous negotiations with state officials, not only has the registration issue of seminaries been sorted out, it was also decided that along with the religious education Madaris will also impart conventional education up to Intermediate.

It was also decided that the government would not interfere in the affairs of the seminaries and their curriculum unnecessarily.

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has appointed me as the Special Representative for Religious Harmony and the Middle East.

I have been assigned a special duty to promote and strengthen religious harmony and begin an interfaith dialogue with key stakeholders, to dispel misconceptions related to Pakistan and Islam.

Alhamdulillah, Pakistan is today one of the safest countries for minorities. Look at India where minorities are in perpetual danger.

More than 2,000 churches, hundreds of gurdwaras and mosques have been targeted. Massacres of minorities and forced conversions have become a routine matter in India. Also what is happening to Muslims in Europe, the United States, and the United Kingdom under the guise of Islamophobia is no secret.

With the praise of Allah, protection of the rights of minorities in all walks of life according to the Constitution of Pakistan is being ensured in every possible way.

During the last three months, issues of forced conversion, forced marriage and blasphemy have been closely watched, and in case of any complaint, the matter was resolved immediately.

In this regard, I can responsibly say that Pakistan has no major issue related to the rights of minorities. Most of what we hear is propaganda. Nevertheless, we still are vigilant and ready to solve the problem.

How the Ulema-e-Islam and the ‘Khatam-e-Nabowat Lawyers Forum’ reacted to the false accusation of blasphemy against six Christian workers in Lahore was a step in the right direction.

The religious scholars and the lawyers have also agreed that in the event of misuse of the blasphemy law, not only will the attempt be stopped but action will also be taken against the perpetrator.

Despite the outbreak of the corona pandemic, Christians were provided full security during their festivity days, especially on Christmas.

A function was also held in the Presidency to send a clear message that the protection of the rights of all Pakistanis, as enshrined in the Constitution, is the responsibility of the state. Those who attacked the Hindu temple in Karak had been arrested.

Not a single voice from across the country was raised in their support while the religious scholars have demanded full action against the perpetrators. Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken a personal interest in the arrest of the accused involved in the Karak incident.

Similarly, the Chief Justice of Pakistan also ordered the reconstruction of the mandir without delay. All these actions show that the state is seriously protecting the rights of minorities.

As the Special Representative of the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, my office is working round the clock to address the grievances of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Progress is being made to establish interreligious and interfaith harmony councils at the union level to resolve issues at the local level. We are also working to bring an end to the culture of hate speech and writings.

Although the Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab has been working on it for a long time, with the coordinated effort of concerned departments, the trend shall now be spread across the country.

This article will not be complete without mentioning the continuous persecution of Hazara community members in Machh, Balochistan. They have been the victims of terrorism for a long time and the role of anti-Pakistan forces is clear in these instances.

India is supporting ISIS and Pakistan’s banned organisations in Afghanistan. ISIS has claimed responsibility for terrorism in Machh, Balochistan.

Although some internal and external elements tried to spread hatred and politicise the tragedy, the Hazara community leaders, scholars and elders, and the government of Pakistan not only thwarted it but for the first time, the government solved the problems of the Hazara community by signing a written agreement on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

We strive to welcome positive criticism and respond effectively to unwarranted propaganda, be it on issues of minorities or the problems of Pakistanis in the Middle East. It is our utmost priority and first responsibility to resolve all these issues. Insha Allah, I will soon write on the government’s goals and our efforts in the Middle East.

https://nation.com.pk/17-Jan-2021/religious-harmony-in-pakistan

The Tribune – Sikh anchor in Pakistan claims threat from brother’s killers

G S Paul – Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 15 January 2021. Pakistan’s first turbaned Sikh television anchor Harmeet Singh has complained about receiving threat calls from the Peshawar jail, where the murderers of his brother Parvendar Singh are lodged.

Parvendar (25) was shot dead by contract killers hired by his fiancée Prem Kumari on 04 January last year. His body was found in a drain on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Talking to The Tribune over phone, Harmeet said Prem Kumari and her accomplices had recently procured bail from the high court.

Harmeet claimed that since he belonged to a minority community, he feared he might not be able to pursue his brother’s case as the authorities appeared to be going soft on the accused from the majority community.

“Today, I received a call from the Peshawar jail. The man on the other side introduced himself as Mohammad Ibrahim, who had shot my brother.

He threatened me with dire consequences if I did not compromise in the case. I was aghast that he used the jail’s phone to threaten me fearlessly.”

“I have appealed to Pakistan PM Imran Khan and the Chief Justice to take cognisance of the incident as my whole family is under threat,” he said.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/sikh-anchor-in-pak-claims-threat-from-brothers-killers-199062

FirstPost – Testing India’s patience would be a mistake, says army chief General M M Naravane on Ladakh standoff

Naravane, however, added that India is committed to resolve the eight-month-long military standoff with China through talks. He was speaking at the Army Day parade in New Delhi.

New Delhi – India, 15 January 2021. In a tough message to China amid the Ladakh standoff, Army Chief General M M Naravane on Friday said no one should make any mistake of testing India’s patience even as he asserted that a befitting response was given to the “conspiracy” of unilaterally changing the status quo along the northern frontier.

Naravane also said that India is committed to resolve the over eight-month-long military standoff with China through talks.

In his address at the Army Day parade in Delhi Cantonment, Naravane said the deaths of the “Galwan heroes” in eastern Ladakh in June last year will not go waste and that the Indian Army will not allow any harm to the country’s sovereignty and security.

“We are committed to resolve disputes through talks and political efforts but no one should make any mistake of testing our patience,” he said in the presence of the country’s top military brass including Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria.

Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a bitter standoff in eastern Ladakh since 5 May as multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks have not yet produced any breakthrough.

Referring to the situation along the Line of Control (LoC), Naravane said Pakistan continues to shelter terrorists and 300 to 400 of them are waiting in training camps on the Pakistani side of the LoC to infiltrate into India.

On the situation in eastern Ladakh, Naravane said despite the severe cold weather, the morale of the Indian soldiers is “higher” than the region’s mountain peaks “which they are protecting effectively and with promptness”.

“Last year was very challenging for the Army. You are aware of the tension with China along the northern border. A befitting reply was given to the conspiracy of unilaterally changing the status quo on the border,” he said.

“I want to assure the country that the sacrifice of the Galwan heroes will not go waste. Indian Army will not allow any harm to the country’s sovereignty and security.”

Twenty Indian Army personnel lost their lives in a fierce hand-to-hand combat on 15 June 2020 in the Galwan Valley, an incident that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.

China is yet to disclose the number of its soldiers killed and injured in the clash though it officially admitted to have suffered casualties. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.

Naravane also noted that eight rounds of military talks were held between India and China to bring the situation under control. “Our efforts will continue to find a solution to the current situation on the basis of mutual and equal security,” he said.

About cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, he said there has been 44 percent increase in ceasefire violations that reflects the neighbouring country’s sinister design.

“Strong response is being given to the enemy on the other border. Pakistan continues to provide safe haven to terrorists. In the training camps, across the LOC around 300-400 terrorists are ready to infiltrate,” he said.

“There was an increase of 44 percent in the ceasefire violations last year which is proof of Pakistan’s sinister plans. There were also attempts to smuggle weapons using drones,” he added.

“There were efforts to smuggle in weapons (into India) from across the border using drones and tunnels,” he said.

The Chief of the Army Staff said India’s active operations and strong counter infiltration grid not only inflicted heavy losses on the enemy but they contained infiltration attempts as well.

Naravane said the Army killed over 200 terrorists in counter-terror operations and on the LoC last year, adding these measures have provided people of Jammu and Kashmir relief from terrorism.

On the security situation in the North East, he said major success was achieved in anti-militancy operations conducted by the Army in cooperation with the Myanmarese Army.

Naravane said around 600 militants had surrendered last year in the North East due to proactive operations by the armed forces. Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.

There has been increasing cooperation between Indian and Myanmarese armies in the last few years in guarding the border. Some militant groups from the North-East region are taking shelter in Myanmar.

https://www.firstpost.com/india/testing-indias-patience-would-be-a-mistake-says-army-chief-gen-mm-naravane-on-ladakh-standoff-9205931.html

Sikh24.com – Sikhs, Hindus get big cremation ground over 4 acres in Lahore

Sikh24 Asian Bureau

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 15 January 2021. The Sikhs and Hindus who are usually forced to bury their dead at several places in Pakistan due to lack of crematoriums, today got a big cremation ground in Lahore, capital of Pakistan’s Punjab.

As per the information shared by a spokesperson of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sahibzada Noor-ul-Haq Qadri on Thursday inaugurated a new Cremation Site (Shamshan Ghat) at Babu Sabu locality in Lahore to facilitate members of religious minority communities to perform their last rituals in a smooth manner.

The inauguration ceremony was held at the office of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) here in presence of Sikh leaders including office bearers of the PSGPC.

Speaking on the occasion, the minister said the minorities were enjoying equal rights in the country, reported the Urdu Point news portal.

Briefing the minister about the cremation site, Chairman (ETPB), Dr Amir Ahmed said the cremation site was spread over 34 kanal area (approximately 4.25 acres). The crematorium, constructed with the cost of Rs 16.1 million, had been completed despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the minister was also briefed about various development initiatives in the 333rd meeting of the ETPB members.

Prior to this, Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province identified sites for the construction of a cremation ground for the minority communities and a graveyard for the Christians on 14 January in 2019.

Nearly 1.25 acre of land was identified in Samarbagh near northern bypass Peshawar of which 0.5 acre were allocated for the construction of the cremation ground and 0.75 acre for the graveyard.

The provincial government-enforced Section-IV for the procurement of land at the sites identified for the cremation ground and the graveyard in Peshawar, Nowshera, and Kohat districts of the province. One ambulance to each worship places of minorities in the province was also provided.

While Sikhs are very small minority community in Pakistan, Hindus’ population is considerable there.

Hindus make up 2.5 percent of the 174 million people living in Pakistan. The majority of them, over 90 percent, live in the southern Sindh province, but a considerable number of Hindus and Sikhs also reside in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

However, they face problems pertaining to performing last rites of their dead as per their religious rituals in the Islamic Republic. They will get big relief with the construction of new crematorium in Lahore.