Dawn – PPP hits back after letter empowering Hussain Haqqani ‘leaked’ to media

Mohammad Bilal

Clarifying the PPP’s position on the controversy surrounding the issuance of over two thousand visas to US citizens, allegedly after bypassing proper channels, party spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar on Friday said there was “nothing new or wrong” in the letter sent by Prime Minister House to the Foreign Office in 2010 circulated in media today.

The letter, brought to the fore in media Thursday night, suggested that the prime minister’s office had empowered the then ambassador of Pakistan in Washington, Hussain Haqqani, to directly issue diplomatic visas to Americans without requiring clearance from relevant authorities.

Babar, in a statement issued to media on Friday, said the timing of the letter ‘leaking’ to media was suspect.

“Its [the official letter’s] regurgitation at this time is politically motivated and aimed at diverting attention from the real issue,” he said.

Embassies in important capitals of the world have representatives of relevant government departments, including security agencies, he insisted.

“The ambassador was empowered by the prime minister to issue visas, but that does not mean that due process within the embassy, involving representatives of other departments, was allowed to be circumvented,” he claimed.

The PPP leader said the ambassador had been empowered to issue visas only to those whose purpose of visit was clearly defined and duly recommended by the US State Department.

“The purpose was to expedite, not bypass, the process,” he added.

“It [the letter] was also not an authorisation to issue visas to US Special Operation Forces,” he elaborated.

Drawing attention to the US raid in Abbottabad which killed Osama Bin Laden, Babar instead asked how it was that Bin Laden lived in a cantonment for almost a decade directing global terrorism efforts.

“The central question is not who, following due process, gave visas to some Americans who may have eventually been able to hunt and take Laden out,” he contended.

“No amount of verbal jugglery, media circus and mudslinging on the previous PPP government will erase this question from the public mind,” he stated.

He suggested that a thorough inquiry into Pakistan’s visa issuance policies and procedures across the board should be initiated from 2001 onward, when the global hunt for Bin Laden started.

“Targeting some individuals or a political government for political purposes will not advance national security interests,” he said.

“National security interests will be advanced only by a credible, non-partisan probe in visa policies and procedures across the board and across time,” he added.

“Investigations must also be made into how many Americans entered Pakistan through the Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan, with or without visas, during the days of General Pervez Musharraf,” he said, targetting the former president and military chief.

“Such investigations cannot be made through selective leaks or public statements in the media. A starting point can be the Abbottabad Commission probing the Laden fiasco,” read his statement.

“Hunting Bin Laden has always been the official narrative. Making the Abbottabad Commission report public will be in conformity with the narrative. Any other course will not be credible and will be seen as political witch hunting,” he concluded.


The Statesman – Adityanath as Chief Minister a step towards Hindu Rashtra: CPI-M

New Delhi, 23 March 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS have taken “the most audacious step” to usher in a Hindu Rashtra by making Yogi Adityanath as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, the CPI-M has said.

“They have put in place, as Chief Minister of the biggest state of India, a person who has openly challenged the very precepts of the Constitution,” said an editorial in the CPI-M journal “People’s Democracy”.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist said his selection “is a clear signal that the BJP-RSS combine wishes to pursue the line of Hindu consolidation as the basis of its future political strategy”.

The editorial said that since becoming a member of the Lok Sabha from Gorakhpur in 1998, Adityanath became notorious for his record of Muslim bashing and direct incitement of communal violence.

It said his Hindu Yuva Vahini “was nothing but an armed vigilante group” and “in his political campaign and in his election speeches henceforth, he has had only one aim – Muslim bashing”.

“The specialty of the Yuva Vahini under Adityanath’s leadership was to intervene and convert any minor dispute or common place quarrel into a communal riot.

“To make such a person the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh can only be a deliberately thought out decision.”


The Tribune – Christian congregation disrupted

Tribune News Service

Ropar, 23 March 2017. Members of several Hindu religious and social bodies disrupted a changiai sabha organised by Christians last night, alleging that it was an attempt to convert poor Hindus into Christians.

This led to heated arguments between the protesters and participants attending the sabha following which the police intervened and diffused the situation.

The organisers, however, preferred to cancel the programme and took away their tents and sound system.

It was around 9:30 pm when preachers started delivering a sermon at the programme organised on Gandhi School road near Bela chowk.

Soon, the members of Sanatan Dharam Sabha, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Jain Sabha, Aggarwal Sabha reached the spot and raised objections. They alleged that the preacher was alluring the poor people to adopt Christianity my misleading them that such a step would cure their ailments and end all miseries.

District coordinator of Bajrang Dal, Vivek Chhatwal, said that they would not allow such programmes to be held in here where Hindus would be converted to other religions.

Station House Officer (SHO) Mahesh Kumar said that the police had only asked the organisers to remove the sound system installed without permission of the authorities. Instead, the organisers cancelled the event, he said.


Times of India – Babri Masjid demolition case: SC adjourns hearing till tomorrow

New Delhi, 22 March 2017. The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of the conspiracy charges against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti matter till March 23.

The apex court will now hear the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s plea against Allahabad High Court’s order dropping criminal conspiracy charges against the BJP leaders in the case on Thursday.

There are two sets of cases, one against BJP veteran Advani and others who were on the dais at Ram Katha Kunj in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 when the Babri mosque was demolished. The other case was against lakhs of ‘karsevaks’ (volunteers) who were in and around the disputed structure.

The CBI had chargesheeted Advani and 20 others under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc. circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

It had subsequently invoked charges under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC which was quashed by the special court whose decision was upheld by the high court.


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

Sanjiv Kumar Bakshi

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

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

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

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

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


The Hindu – Amarinder to seek legal advice on Navjot Singh’s appearance in serial

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has decided to seek legal opinion on whether his Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu can continue to appear as a celebrity judge on a popular television show.

“Captain Amarinder has said he is not sure what the law says regarding a Cabinet minister working on a television programme, and will have to ask the State’s advocate general to give legal advice on the matter,” his media advisor, Raveen Thukral, told The Hindu.

Conflict of interest

“It’s about whether there’s any conflict of interest if he [Mr. Sidhu] continues to work in television…If there is any, then the Chief Minister will talk to him [Mr. Sidhu] and bring it to his knowledge,” he added.

The controversy erupted after Mr. Sidhu recently said that he will continue to appear on a popular TV show as a celebrity judge. “TV shows will not interfere with my Cabinet responsibilities. The public had elected me five times with what I have been doing…If they don’t have a problem, why should anyone else have it,” Mr. Sidhu had said.

‘Not office of profit’

He insisted that his TV shows will not interfere with his Cabinet responsibilities. “I have no liquor, sand mining or transport business like former deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. I earn a living through TV shows and I will be in Chandigarh from Monday to Thursday and in Amritsar from Friday to Sunday.

What I do at night should not be anyone’s concern. I will take first flight back to Punjab after TV shoots in Mumbai,” he said.

Mr Sidhu, who currently holds the portfolios of local government, tourism and cultural affairs, has been maintaining that doing a TV show does not come under the ambit of “office of profit”.

Meanwhile, Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur has come out in support of his husband through a Facebook post, saying that the issue was being over-hyped without any reason.

“Such hype has been created about Navjot earning a living from television. He has left 80 per cent of shows, which included IPL, commentary, etc.I think it is a meagre time for a non-socially active God-fearing workaholic,” she wrote on Facebook.


The News – Bhagat Singh: his times and ours

Ammar Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: ammarjan86@gmail.com


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

Muhammad Bilal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Tribune – Captain orders clean-up operation

VIP culture ‘to end’ – Legislation on ‘conflict of interest’ – Cartels to face action

Rajmeet Singh, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 18 March 2017. Proposing an overhaul of the political, administrative and police setup in Punjab, the Captain Amarinder Singh government, in its first Cabinet meeting, today decided to end the VIP culture and bring in a legislation on “conflict of interest”, wherein the ministers or MLAs could be unseated on being found to have business interest in their official capacity.

No beacons will be used by ministers, MLAs and officers on vehicles, except on emergency vehicles, the vehicles of the CM, the Chief Justice and High Court Judges.

To cut expenditure and minimise public harassment, the functioning of the district administration would not be disturbed during visits by the CM and ministers. No banquets and dinners at government expense will be allowed.

With an aim to end the sand mining, transport, cable and liquor “cartels” active during the previous Prakash Singh Badal government, the Cabinet decided to introduce a slew of steps and legislations.

Apart from bringing a White Paper on various omissions and commissions by the SAD-BJP government, it was decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry to review “false” political cases and fix accountability.

Further, a third party audit of all the government expenditure (above Rs 10 crore) during the last three years would be done. In future, third party audit of government spending will be an annual feature.

The Cabinet also decided to recall unutilised pre-election funds from all departments to generate revenue and stayed all decisions of the last six months pending for review.

For transparency and accountability, all the MLAs and MPs will have to declare their immovable properties on January 1 every year and asset details of all IAS, IPS, PCS and Class-1 officers would be tabled every year in the Vidhan Sabha.

33% Jobs for women

Cabinet decided to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in all government jobs and increase their representation in PRIs and Urban Local Bodies from 33 to 50 per cent.

No foreign travel

The Cabinet banned foreign travel by ministers, MLAs and officials for two years.

Halqa system goes

The system of halqa incharge and use of political clout by staff in seeking transfers and favours has been ended.

Drug task force

A Special Task Force headed by ADGP Harpreet Sidhu, leading anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, will implement a programme to eliminate drugs. In next meeting, Home Department will submit a proposal for enactment of Confiscation of Drug Dealers Property Act.

No sale of farmers’ land

A new legislation will be brought to prohibit sale/auction of farmers’ land by lending agencies.