The Indian Express – After arrest of ‘key SFJ recruiter’, 18 more are on NIA radar

No police action was initiated against these 18 after the FIR was lodged in 2018.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 27 June 2020. Around 20 months after the Amritsar police booked Pargat Singh (23) in a sedition case for his alleged links with outlawed Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) radical outfit, the NIA’s move to arrest him has brought the focus on 18 others named in the same 2018 sedition case.

No police action was initiated against these 18 after the FIR was lodged in 2018. They are now believed to be on NIA’s radar after Pargat’s arrest, who is alleged to be the key recruiter of radical Sikh youths for SFJ.

While Punjab Police had booked 30 accused in original case, it had submitted challan only against 11 at an Amritsar court in March 2019, keeping 19, including Pargat Singh and banned outfit Sikh For Justice’s Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, out of it.

However, NIA told Mohali court earlier this week that Pargat Singh was one of the key conspirators and recruiter of radical Sikh youth while working under the directions of handlers located abroad to further the activities of SFJ (Sikhs For Justice) which has already been declared an unlawful association.

Pargat Singh (23), a Sikh priest [There are no Sikh priests] from village Tarmala in district Sri Muktsar Sahib, was produced before the NIA Special Court, Mohali on 23 June and was remanded to NIA custody till 29 June.

His arrest also came months after Sikh for Justice was banned in India in July 2019.

Case File

The original case was registered at Sultanwind Police Station, Amritsar (City) vide FIR No 152 dated October 19, 2018.

The case was subsequently re-registered by NIA on April 5, 2020.

According to the NIA FIR, “A module had been motivated by one Javed Khan, an ISI handler based in Pakistan for conducting subversive activities and pasting of Khalistan/Referendum-2020 posters/banners at different locations in Punjab and New Delhi.”

The agency in a recent statement added that the “case is related to series of acts of violence including acts of arson in Punjab during the year 2017-18, carrying out of propaganda activities both online and on ground, campaigns in support of Referendum 2020/SFJ including pasting of posters in Delhi and various parts of Punjab, committed by groups of radicalised youths under direction of and financial assistance from SFJ handlers located abroad.

Investigation has revealed that arrested accused persons, including Pargat Singh, had received funds from their foreign handlers.”

Intriguingly, Punjab Police, while investigating case till April 2020, had not even visited the house of Pargat Singh on single occasion after filing the FIR in October 2018.

“There is no criminal record of Pargat Singh at our police station. We were never approached by any police team to raid the house of Pargat Singh,” said SHO, Lambi, under whose jurisdiction Pargat’s village Tarmala falls.

Apart from Pargat Singh, there were total 10 accused in India, who were not interrogated by Punjab Police during last 20 months.

These include Balwant Singh from village Waring, Tarn Taran, Sandeep Singh, Harjeet Singh, Davinder Singh, Sukhbir Singh and Bhupinder Singh, all five from Srinagar, Sunny, Tarsem Singh, Lovepreet Singh, and Gurbhej Singh all from Dera Ajnala Amritsar.

Ajnala Dera is run by Bhai Amrik Singh Ajnala, who was appointed Takht Kesgarh Sahib Anandpur Sahib Jathedar during the 2015 Sarbat Khalsa at Amritsar.

“Most of the accused were students at Damdami Taksal faction being run by Amrik Singh Ajnala in Ajnala town. We never raided Ajnala Dera. Amrik Singh was also not questioned.

Four accused Sunny, Tarsem Singh, Lovepreet Singh, and Gurbhej Singh, not nominated in challan, couldn’t be arrested,” said former ACP, Amritsar, Palwinder Singh, who looked after the probe in sedition case before handing over the case to NIA. Palwinder was recently transferred as DSP Jalalabad in Fazilka.

He added: “We raided homes of all these accused, not mentioned in the challan, from time to time, but we couldn’t arrest them. However, they were not declared proclaimed offenders.”

As soon as NIA took over the case, Amrik Singh Ajnala was questioned in Amritsar on June 23. “We have handed over case to NIA because it was related to Interpol.

NIA can investigate and make efforts for arrest of foreign nationals,” said DSP Palwinder Singh. Apart from SFJ’s face Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, who is in the US, there are five accused from South Africa, one each from UAE and Kuwait.

Think about Jagtar Singh Dumbarton who was arrested in 2017, and until now no proof against him has been produced.

The Tribune – Pursue cases of Sikh youths, SGPC told

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 30 June 2020. After raking up the issue of a separate Sikh state “Khalistan”, Akal Takht’s officiating Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh today directed the SGPC to pursue cases of Sikh youths who were arrested by the Punjab Police recently.

Giani Hapreet Singh condemned the police for allegedly implicating Sikh youths on the false pretext of supporting Khalistan.

“If Sikh youths are arrested on frivolous charges in the name of Khalistan, it is condemnable. The SGPC should pursue cases of innocent Sikh youths,” he said.

On 06 June, during the anniversary of Operation Bluestar, Giani Harpreet Singh had triggered a controversy by stating that every Sikh wanted a separate state and “if the government offers us Khalistan, what else do we need? We will accept it.” Later, he clarified that Sikhs can never be defined by the idea of Khalistan.

The Nation – Plea against temple’s construction in Sector H-9 rejected

Islamabad – Pakistan, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday rejected a plea seeking a stay order against the construction of a temple for Hindu community in Sector H-9 and sought comments from Capital Development Authority (CDA) on the matter.

Justice Aamer Farooq conducted hearing on the petition moved by Tanvir Akhter Advocate.

The court said minorities’ rights were protected in the Constitution and it must be cared. The court, however, directed the civic body to explain that whether the temple in Sector H-9 was part of the CDA’s master plan or not.

At the outset of hearing, the petitioner adopted the stance that there was already a temple existed in Saidpur Village and it could be renovated further.

He pleaded the court that the land allocated for temple in Sector H-9 was a violation of CDA’s master plan, adding there was no Hindu community residing around this sector.

The Hindu – India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s ‘missing females’, says UN report

The number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years – from 61 million in 1970 to a cumulative 142.6 million in 2020.

New York – United Nations, 30 June 2020. India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s 142.6 million “missing females” over the past 50 years, a report by the United Nations said on Tuesday, noting that the country along with China form the majority of such women globally.

The State of World Population 2020 report released on Tuesday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the world organisation’s sexual and reproductive health agency, said that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years, from 61 million in 1970 to a cumulative 142.6 million in 2020.

Of this global figure, India accounted for 45.8 million missing females as of 2020 and China accounted for 72.3 million.

Missing females are women missing from the population at given dates due to the cumulative effect of postnatal and prenatal sex selection in the past, the agency said.

Girls ‘missing’ in India at birth

Between 2013 and 2017, about 460,000 girls in India were ‘missing’ at birth each year.

According to one analysis, gender-biased sex selection accounts for about two-thirds of the total missing girls, and post-birth female mortality accounts for about one-third, the report said.

Citing data by experts, it said that China and India together account for about 90-95 per cent of the estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased (prenatal) sex selection.

The two countries also account for the largest number of births each year, it said.

The report cites data by Alkema, Leontine and others, 2014 ‘National, Regional, and Global Sex Ratios of Infant, Child, and under-5 Mortality and Identification of Countries with Outlying Ratios: A Systematic Assessment’ from The Lancet Global Health.

Highest rate of excess female deaths

According to their analysis, India has the highest rate of excess female deaths, 13.5 per 1,000 female births, which suggests that an estimated one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 may be attributed to postnatal sex selection.

The report notes that governments have also taken action to address the root causes of sex selection.

India and Vietnam have included campaigns that target gender stereotypes to change attitudes and open the door to new norms and behaviours.

They spotlight the importance of daughters and highlight how girls and women have changed society for the better.

Campaigns that celebrate women’s progress and achievements may resonate more where daughter-only families can be shown to be prospering, it said.

The report said that successful education-related interventions include the provision of cash transfers conditional on school attendance; or support to cover the costs of school fees, books, uniforms and supplies, taking note of successful cash-transfer initiatives such as ‘Apni Beti Apna Dhan’ in India.

It said that preference for a male child manifested in sex selection has led to dramatic, long-term shifts in the proportions of women and men in the populations of some countries.

Demographic imbalance

This demographic imbalance will have an inevitable impact on marriage systems. In countries where marriage is nearly universal, many men may need to delay or forego marriage because they will be unable to find a spouse, the report said.

This so-called “marriage squeeze”, where prospective grooms outnumber prospective brides, has already been observed in some countries and affects mostly young men from lower economic strata.

“At the same time, the marriage squeeze could result in more child marriages, the report said citing experts.

Some studies suggest that the marriage squeeze will peak in India in 2055. The proportion of men who are still single at the age of 50 is forecast to rise after 2050 in India to 10 per cent, it said.

The UN report said that every year, millions of girls globally are subjected to practices that harm them physically and emotionally, with the full knowledge and consent of their families, friends and communities.

At least 19 harmful practices, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, according to the UNFPA report, which focuses on the three most prevalent ones: female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.

Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential, says UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.

Female genital mutilations

This year, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation.

Today, 33,000 girls under age 18 will be forced into marriages, usually to much older men and an extreme preference for sons over daughters in some countries has fuelled gender-biased sex selection or extreme neglect that leads to their death as children, resulting in the 140 million missing females.

The report said that ending child marriage and female genital mutilation worldwide is possible within 10 years by scaling up efforts to keep girls in school longer and teach them life skills and to engage men and boys in social change.

Investments totalling USD 3.4 billion a year through 2030 would end these two harmful practices and end the suffering of an estimated 84 million girls, it said.

A recent analysis revealed that if services and programmes remain shuttered for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 13 million girls may be forced into marriage and 2 million more girls may be subjected to female genital mutilation between now and 2030.

The pandemic both makes our job harder and more urgent as so many more girls are now at risk, Kanem said.

The News – Timely intelligence alert and police preparedness foiled Pakistan Stock Exchange attack

Islamabad – Pakistan, 30 June 2020. It was the perfect combination of timely issuance of intelligence alerts and quick response by police and security officials that has foiled Indian-backed BLA’s terrorist attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange on Monday.

Informed sources said that the intelligence agencies had the information that the terrorist may attack certain targets in Karachi. Intelligence alerts were also issued one of which had clearly identified Pakistan Stock Exchange as the possible target of the terrorists.

Following these reports, the Karachi police beefed up the PSX’s security and deployed a team of its commandos. The private security of the Pakistan Stock Exchange was also enhanced.

Karachi police sources said that in view of this preparedness when the Indian sponsored BLA attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange building, they were quickly countered and killed.

Days before the Monday’s attack, an intelligence alert was issued warning police and others concerned to prepare for the possible attack.

The report had recommended enhancement of police deployment at and inside Pakistan Stock Exchange. According to the intelligence alert, Pakistan Stock Exchange is one of the key business installations of the country.

A large number of businessmen and investors come to Pakistan Stock Exchange for business activities, the alert said.

The intelligence alert had also discussed the then security level of the Pakistan Stock Exchange and feared that any terrorist might manage to enter the premises of Pakistan Stock Exchange to carry out any sabotaging activities.

“Therefore, it is recommended that Police deployment may be enhanced at and inside Pakistan Stock Exchange,” said the report, adding, “It is pertinent to mention that the backside of Pakistan Stock Exchange, area opposite the railway tracks is hub of illegal activities which might be used by terrorists to attack Pakistan Stock Exchange.”

It was recommended that security arrangements be enhanced and new police posts should be established on the backside of the building, which faces the railway track.

In the light of this intelligence report, the police reviewed the security situation in and around the Pakistan Stock Exchange and upgraded the same to counter a possible terrorist attack.

On Monday, when the terrorists attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange they were quickly and successfully countered by the police and private security guards deployed there.

According to media reports a police sub inspector and two security guards were martyred while successfully repelling this terrorist attack. All the four heavily armed terrorists were killed.

The terrorists had come heavily equipped with modern weaponry and had entered the building from the parking area of the Pakistan Stock Exchange but they were killed before causing any destruction.

In charge of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) Raja Umar Khatab said that the terrorists had planned for a long fight but they were failed to fulfill their evil design.

The terrorist organization BLA has claimed the responsibility of the attack and said that it was BLA’s “Majeed brigade” which had hit the Pakistan Stock Exchange. – Pakistani Sikhs mark death anniversary of world’s best ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Sikh24 Editors –

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 30 June 2020. On 29 June, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Evacuee Trust Property Board marked the 181st death anniversary of the world’s best rule Maharaja Ranjit Singh at his tomb in Lahore.

A religious program was organized on this occasion in which the numbers of attendees were kept low in the wake of corona-virus pandemic.

Sharing the details of program with Sikh24, Lahore based Babar Jalandhari informed that the Raagi Jathas delighted present attendees with melodious Kirtan following the culmination of Sri Akhand Path Sahib.

PSGPC’s general secretary Amir Singh shed light on the life history of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

He informed that the ETPB’s chairman Dr Aamir Ahmad has announced to name a prominent building of Lahore after Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Resentment among Sikhs over inaction against Khawaza Saad Rafique

Former PSGPC general secretary Gopal Singh Chawla has expressed grudge over inaction against Khawaza Saad Rafique for labeling Maharaja Ranjit Singh as a profligate and dacoit ruler.

Hindustan Times – Missing ‘saroops’: Ex-employee files police complaint against SGPC officials

Kanwaljit Singh, who retired from service on 31 May, in the complaint refuted SGPC’s claim that only 14 ‘saroops’ were damaged in the 2016 fire. He said the number of ‘saroops’ damaged in the blaze and due to water in fire control operation was 80 and the SGPC officials hid this truth.

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 29 June 2020. A former employee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Kanwaljit Singh has lodged a complaint with Amritsar police commissioner against the officials of the gurdwara body with regard to missing of 267 ‘saroops’ of Guru Granth Sahib from its publishing house.

Kanwaljit, who retired from service on 31 May, in the complaint refuted SGPC’s claim that only 14 ‘saroops’ were damaged in the 2016 fire. He said the number of ‘saroops’ damaged in the blaze and due to water in fire control operation was 80 and the SGPC officials hid this truth.

“The record of remaining 187 saroops was taken away from me by the SGPC officials. They did so to hide the 2016 incident,” he said.

“Apart from forcibly getting an affidavit from me, the SGPC officials continue to harass me to make me keep my mouth shut.

I want a case registered against the SGPC officials and a free and fair inquiry. I have evidence and will produce them before the inquiry officer,” said the complainant.

On the other hand, the SGPC has termed the accusations as “misleading” and “condemnable”.

Tolo News – Six Civilians killed in Helmand roadside mine blast

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Washir district – Helmand – Afghanistan, 29 June 2020. At least six civilians, including women and children, were killed in a roadside mine blast in southern Helmand province on Sunday afternoon, local officials said on Monday.

The incident took place in Washir district after a civilian vehicle struck a roadside mine, said Mohammad Zaman Hamdard, a spokesman for provincial police chief.

“Two other civilians were wounded in the blast and the victims have been taken to a nearby hospital,” he said.

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

The Tribune – Sutlej banks not repaired

Harshraj Singh – Tribune News Service

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 28 June 2020. A big portion of the Dhussi bund and berm (area along the banks) on the Sutlej was damaged at Garhi Fazal village near Mattewara in Ludhiana district last year, when the river had overflowed during the rains.

However, floods were averted when a villager reached the embankment and raised an alarm after seeing the damaged portion.

However, learning no lessons from the past, no work has been done to strengthen the river banks this year.

The panchayats of various villages, including Garhi Fazal, Machhiyan, Toggar and Mattewara, have written to the Ludhiana Deputy Commissioner in this regard.

The sandbags placed to repair the banks at Garhi Fazal last year have now started getting damaged. The residents of nearby villages are worried that the ‘weak banks’ might lead to a difficult situation once the rains begin.

Gurnam Singh (68), a villager, said, “When a major portion of the bund and adjoining land washed away last year, axed trees and sandbags were placed to protect the remaining portion.

The trees and sandbags have started getting damaged now. Monsoon is nearing but no steps have been taken to strengthen the banks. We fear there are chances of flooding if the banks are not strengthened on time”.

In the letter to the Ludhiana DC, Garhi Fazal village sarpanch Joginder Kaur said around 1-km-long portion of the river bund had become weak. She appealed to the district administration to take steps to strengthen it.

In August 2019, floods had hit some villages of Ludhiana district, when a long breach had occurred in the Dhussi bund on the Sutlej in Bholewal Qadim village.

Gurcharan Singh, sarpanch of Allowal village, said the breach in the bund at Bholewal Qadim was plugged by putting in soil last year.

“But there is an urgent need to strengthen the river embankment. We have requested the department concerned in this regard many times but officials of Ludhiana and Jalandhar are passing the buck over the jurisdiction.

The flood threat can’t be ignored as the bund is weak. We request the government to do the needful,” he said.

According to an official of the Drainage Department, the work got delayed due to fund crunch.

However, Harjot Singh, executive engineer of the Drainage Department, Ludhiana, said the tendering process had been completed and the required work at the Garhi Fazal bund and other points would be started soon.

“The work will start within a few days at vulnerable points at Dulewal, Mattewara, the seed farm site near Ladhowal, Khera Bet and Manewal sites in Ludhiana district,” he added.

The Hindu – Gunmen attack Pakistan stock exchange in Karachi, seven killed

The gunmen attacked the building with grenades and guns, media reported.

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan 29 June 2020. Gunmen attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in the city of Karachi on Monday killing two guards and a policeman before security forces killed all four of the attackers, police said.

Separatist insurgents from Balochistan province, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility in a post on Twitter but Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the claim and spokesmen for the group were not available for comment.

“We locked ourselves in our offices,” Asad Javed, who works at a brokerage in the stock exchange building, which is in a high security zone that also houses the head offices of several banks, told Reuters.

Javed said he was on the ground floor when he heard gunfire and an explosion and people scattered for safety.

The police chief in Pakistan’s biggest city and financial hub, Ghulam Nabi Memon, told Reuters the gunmen attacked with grenades and guns after pulling up in a silver Corolla car.

They threw a grenade at security men posted outside the compound then opened fire on a security post. The four were killed when security forces posted there responded.

Their car was abandoned where they left it.

Two guards and a policeman were killed and seven people were wounded, Deputy Inspector General of Police Sharjil Kharal told media.

A counter-terrorism official told Reuters the attackers were carrying significant quantities of ammunition and grenades in backpacks.

The BLA claimed responsibility in a brief message on a Twitter account set up shortly before the raid, describing it as a “self-sacrificing” attack carried out by its Majeed brigade.

The account was suspended a short time after the attack.

Separatists have been fighting for years in resource-rich Balochistan, complaining the southwestern province’s gas and mineral wealth is unfairly exploited by Pakistan’s richer, more powerful provinces.

The BLA’s Majeed brigade also took responsibility for an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in 2018. Several projects linked to China’s Belt and Road initiative are in Balochistan.

This month, three explosions on the same day claimed by a little-known separatist group killed four people including two soldiers in the southern province of Sindh, of which Karachi is capital.

The Pakistan Stock Exchange did not suspend trading during the attack. Its main KSE-100 index dropped 220 points but it later recovered and was 200 points higher at 0830 GMT.

Islamist militants have also launched attacks in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan over the years but their violence has become less frequent after military operations against various factions in strongholds on the Afghan border.