Sikh24.com – Hate Crime: California’s Gurdwara Sahib defaced with Swastika graffiti symbol

Sikh24 Editors

Sacramento – California – USA, 15 January 2020. Although there is a decline in the overall count of hate crimes incidents in the United States of America, but the incidents of hate crimes against Sikhs have not declined during the past few years. Within a month after an attack on Sikh taxi driver, another incident of hate crime against Sikhs came to fore during the morning hours of 14 January.

A Gurdwara Sahib named Guru Maneyo Granth, which is situated in Orangevale (California), was reportedly defaced with Swastika sign and the words “White Power” by some unidentified elements during the intervening night of 13 and 14 January.

The police officials have recorded statements of the Granthi (priest*) of Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib

Meanwhile, the Indian-American Congressman Dr Ami Bara has strongly condemned the racist graffiti spray painted at a Sikh house of worship in Orangevale.

“The California’s 7th congressional district is a community of diversity and inclusion, and the Sikh community is an integral part of it,” he said.

The swastika (as a character, 卐 or 卍, respectively) is a geometrical figure and an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia.

In the Western world, it was a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck until the 1930s when it became a feature of Nazi symbolism as an emblem of the so-called Aryan race.

As a result of World War II and the Holocaust, most people in Europe and the Americas associate it with Nazism and anti-Semitism.

A granthi is not a priest, he/she is a reader of the Guru Granth Sahib. There are no priests in Dikhi !   

Hate Crime: California’s Gurdwara Sahib defaced with Swastika graffiti symbol

Dawn – USA deplores detentions, internet ban in occupied Kashmir

Anwar Iqbal

Washington DC – USA, 13 January 2020. The chief USA diplomat for South Asian affairs, Alice Wells, has expressed concern over continued detentions and internet-shutdown in occupied Kashmir, days before her visit to New Delhi for bilateral talks.

“Closely following USA ambassador to India and other foreign diplomats’ recent trip to Jammu & Kashmir. Important step,” she wrote in a tweet posted on the official website of the US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

“We remain concerned by detention of political leaders and residents, and internet restrictions. We look forward to a return to normalcy,” she added.

Kashmir has no internet access for more than 150 days.

Ms Wells will reach New Delhi on 15 January on a three-day visit that includes talks with senior Indian officials on bilateral and regional issues. She will then proceed to Islamabad on a similar, three-day visit that will begin on 19 January.

On Thursday, the Modi government arranged a “guided tour” for some New Delhi-based diplomats to the occupied valley, the first after India scrapped the region’s autonomous status five months ago.

“European Union envoys declined an invitation, apparently because the visit did not include meetings with three former chief ministers, who continue to be in detention and whose parties dominated Kashmiri politics,” reported an American broadcaster, Voice of America.

But US ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, accompanied the group, which met Indian military officials, politicians and journalists selected by Indian security services.

India showcased the visit to support its claim that normalcy is returning to the troubled region, where a strict clampdown imposed in August paralysed life as authorities imposed a dusk to dawn curfew.

Indian authorities also imposed unprecedented restrictions on both social and conventional media and disconnected cellphones. Indian security forces also arrested hundreds of Kashmiris, including senior politicians. Most of them remain in detention and the internet suspended.

The diplomats from more than a dozen countries were driven in a motorcade from the airport amid tight security and the areas they visited were also selected by Indian officials.

“Although access for diplomats, rights activists and foreign journalists to Kashmir has always been controlled, India has further restricted travel to the region for both foreigners and Indian opposition leaders,” VOA noted.

The USA broadcaster reported that Indian opposition parties were criticising the government for not allowing their leaders to visit the region while taking diplomats on what they called a “guided tour”.

“Essentially, the government wants to demonstrate that everything is normal in Kashmir, which is far from the reality,” said Congress Party leader Manish Tewari.

Besides Ambassador Juster, the diplomats who visited Kashmir represented Norway, Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

“It’s all about trying to improve the optics,” Manoj Joshi, a foreign affairs analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi told VOA. “Around the world, the government’s handling of the domestic situation has been getting huge amount of negative attention.”

Although Indian succeeded in “persuading” Washington to sends its ambassador, “its other good friend France hid behind the European Union decision not to go on the guided tour,” reported an Indian media outlet, ThePrint.

“Brazilian ambassador to India, Andre Aranha Correa do Lago, didn’t travel to Srinagar although his name was on the list,” the report added.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1528010/us-deplores-detentions-internet-ban-in-occupied-kashmir

OFMI – Tulsi Gabbard Campaign attacks protestors to smother “Foreign Interference” claims

Gabbard Town Hall in New Hampshire degenerates into violence against anti-RSS protestors

Concord – New Hampshire – USA, 10 January 2020. US presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s town hall in Concord, New Hampshire degenerated into a brawl as campaign staff assaulted protestors who silently unfurled signs accusing her of whitewashing India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The congresswoman was scheduled to speak at the January 8 event, but announced the night before that she was returning to Washington, DC “due to last minute scheduled briefings and votes related to stopping further escalation of war with Iran.”

She participated via live-stream, taking questions from the sparse audience. Moments after local politician Eric Gallagher asked Gabbard’s opinion about ongoing protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act, six people stepped to the front holding signs with slogans including “Tulsi: Mascot of India’s KKK”.

Campaign staff immediately charged and tackled one of the protestors. Deputy National Campaign Director Caitlin Pomerantz and volunteer Daniel Martinez were caught on camera hustling protestor Pieter Friedrich out of the event.

“I’m being assaulted,” he shouts as they grab him. “Do not touch me. Let go of me.” As he is shoved out the room, he shouts, “Tulsi Gabbard whitewashes Modi’s fascist forces in India”.

“I’ve filed a police report and hope to press charges,” wrote Friedrich on Twitter.

An analyst of South Asian affairs who recently published a cover article in India’s Caravan magazine regarding Gabbard’s association with the RSS, he also Tweeted, “The people who attacked me have been identified not only as Gabbard campaign staffers, but also as members of her Islamophobic and homophobic Hawaiian cult, the Science of Identity Foundation.

The physical violence they used illustrates SIF’s vicious tactics for suppressing opposition to any of its members who pursue political office, which is a key part of their agenda.”

“We don’t want a repeat of the Holocaust,” Amin Zama, president of the Boston chapter of Indian American Muslim Council, said at the protest. While holding a “Tulsi: Tell Us About RSS” sign, he added, “RSS, which is behind the BJP government ruling India right now, is behind everything. Tulsi gets support from RSS”.

As the town hall ended, Zahir Adil of Justice For All passed out flyers headlined: “Save India From Indian Fascists”. The flyer warned that Washington DC-based organization, Genocide Watch, has issued two Genocide Alerts for India. “RSS based its ideology on the ideas of racial purity preached by German Nazis and fascists in the 1930s and 40s”, claimed the flyer.

“During World War II, the RSS openly supported Adolf Hitler. RSS is a bit like the SS of Nazi Germany, only more powerful, semi-secret, and extremely dangerous.”

“The RSS is a terrorist organization that has slaughtered Christians and Muslims in the streets of India”, explains Brian Wright, an associate director of Organization for Minorities of India.

“Their vision is to turn the country into a Hindu nation where it’s illegal to convert to any other religion. The only thing American politicians should be doing with the RSS is condemning them”.

“It’s heartening to see spreading protests against Tulsi Gabbard’s collaboration with the RSS and the BJP”, remarks OFMI’s Arvin Valmuci. “This is the fourth time she’s been protested over her ties to those extremist groups. We agree with the protestors that Congresswoman Gabbard has a track record of pay to play with India’s fascists.

We call for her immediate resignation and for the Congressional Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the foreign interference in her congressional campaigns”.

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.

Visit
www.OFMI.org

The Print – Why Punjabis leave thousands of toy planes at this gurdwara near Jalandhar

Earlier, the majority of Punjabis looking to emigrate to UK, USA & Canada were rural farmers. But now, students and job-seeking youth have joined them in droves.

Chitleen K Sethi

Talhan/Jalandhar – Panjab – India, 11 January 2020. The Baba Nihal Singhji Shaheed Gurudwara in Talhan is like no other in India. Thousands of devotees visit the shrine, which stands near Jalandhar, almost 150 km away from Chandigarh, with only one prayer on their lips, Waheguru ji, please help me go abroad.

Along with the prayers before the Guru Granth Sahib, devotees make a unique offering, they each leave a toy plastic airplane within the gurudwara precincts. At the end of each day, thousands of these toy planes, collected by the gurdwara, are given away as ‘prasad’ to the young children who accompany their parents to the shrine.

The Talhan gurdwara epitomises the unapologetic desperation of Punjabis to go abroad, be it jobless rural youth looking for options beyond agriculture, young students wanting to use education as a stepping stone to a better future, NRIs’ wives waiting to be called by their husbands, or elderly parents awaiting their visitor visa to the countries their children are settled in.

Talhan lies in Punjab’s Doaba region, also called the NRI belt of the state. Almost every town in this region is teeming with coaching centres for spoken English, institutes that help students prepare for the English language test IELTS, or education consultants promising assured admission in foreign universities. The whole process, including admissions and visa applications, can cost several lakh rupees.

Frustrated youth

Jalandhar resident Satnam Singh, 23, is visiting the gurdwara with his mother and older sister, and justifies the desperation to go abroad by saying: “Where are the jobs in Punjab, or for that matter, anywhere in this country now? There is so much unemployment, and jobs are only a handful.”

“There is sifarish and whatever is left goes in reservation. Despite being educated, the jobs one finally gets are low-paying. For the same job in Canada or USA, one is paid much better,” he adds.

Yuvraj, a 25-year-old who hails from Jalandhar, managed to go to Canada after finishing his Class 12. He is a truck driver there and earns the equivalent of several lakh rupees a month. “I’ve been in Canada for five years.

Had I lived here, I would still be looking for a job, while there, I am already earning quite a lot and managing to help my family financially,” he says.

Yuvraj’s cousin Gurkeerat Singh also left the country after finishing Class 12, and makes good money working as a restaurant manager in New Zealand. “It is not that we don’t miss Punjab or want to leave it, but the fact is that hard work pays there and not here. There is so much frustration among the youth here,” he adds.

Success of the first wave

Kuljeet Singh is a former president of the Punjab Travel Agents Association. His father was among the first to start a travel agency in the state, in 1967. He says the culture of going abroad began with success stories of the first wave of Punjabis who migrated.

“The single most important reason why Punjabis go abroad is to make money. Initially, the emigration was from rural agricultural families who sought various means to go out of Punjab. Their success stories encouraged others to follow suit,” he adds.

The first-wavers, he says, went to the UK, the US and Canada in the 1960s and 1970s, and came back to tell fantastic stories about their lives. They invariably took along a relative, and that his how entire families migrated and settled there.

Kuljeet says that Punjabis are hard-working and enterprising, so even those that started life in these countries doing small jobs went on to set up businesses, made a lot of money, and now own property and even join politics.

Amarjit Singh from Ludhiana, whose son is a property dealer in Canada, adds: “In Canada, UK and Australia, the Punjabi diaspora has made an indelible mark on society. Sikhs are prominent citizens and no government can ignore them. Unlike India, where Sikhs are treated shabbily.”

Tejinder Singh runs a shop outside the Talhan gurudwara, and sees thousands of devotees flock to the holy place to try and go abroad. He explains: “‘NRI’ is almost like a status symbol in Punjab, and everyone here is in awe of NRIs. NRI almost means someone who is a winner, as against those who live here, who are losers.

“Being an NRI has come to mean a man who has managed to make a place for himself in a foreign country, and it is presumed that he is making lot of money, has a big house, lots of servants, good clothes and gadgets.”

State of Indian economy

Professor Rajesh Gill of the Department of Sociology at Chandigarh-based Panjab University says the chief reason for Punjabis going abroad is the state of the Indian economy. “Initially, we had people only from rural areas going abroad, since they had no option beyond agriculture. Now, young boys and girls are going out for good education, followed by jobs,” she says.

“The Punjabi love for consumerism and status symbols has also had some role to play in the exodus.”

Gill adds that Punjabi boys from patriarchal families have never been encouraged to hold blue-collar jobs in the same cultural setting. “But when these boys are out of this cultural environment, they happily accept such jobs. Also, for the same kind of job, the money they make abroad is much more,” she says.

“The relatively new trend is for Punjabi parents to send their young children for education abroad and encourage them to settle there. The educated class in India feels that its children have no future here. There was a time when students from India would go abroad for jobs after their postgraduation or doctorate, but now students are leaving after Class 12,” Gill adds.

Travel agent Kuljeet concurs, saying the ratio of rural emigration to urban emigration was 80:20 until five years ago, but is now around 50:50. Around 1.5 lakh students are believed to go abroad from Punjab every year.

The risk

However, there is a flip-side to Punjabis’ desperation to go abroad. Touts offer several illegal means to send people abroad, but the cost is huge, even if one shells out lakhs to such agents, there is no guarantee of immigration. There are innumerable horror stories of Punjabi youth getting caught at various places in transit.

In November last year, 26 youths were stuck in Russia after being cheated by a travel agent. One of them even died for want of timely medical aid.

“Every day we hear about youths being duped by unscrupulous agents and then getting stuck in Armenia, Germany, Dubai, Mexico. They are dumped there with no money or legal papers. Many are arrested and ill-treated. The government should do something about this,” says Sarabpreet Singh, a Jalandhar resident.

Kuljeet Singh, however, says while the perception in most cases ends up being that innocent youths are “duped” by agents and sent abroad illegally, the youngsters are equally involved.

“The youth are so desperate to go abroad that they encourage the agents to prepare forged documents. When an agent is booked, the person who has given the money for the crime should be booked too,” he says.

Those who manage to reach these countries face a different struggle. They live in hiding until well-settled Punjabi brethren “help out” in regularising their stay, but another hefty fee has to be paid, this time in dollars.

Contract marriages

For the desperate, marriage, too, is a way out of the country. “Contract marriages are generally undertaken among those youth whose immigration and student visa have not worked out,” says Kuljeet Singh.

If the girl is already on a student visa abroad, then she can legitimately call her husband to that country on a work permit. “For the past two years, I have been in talks with girls who are likely to get a study visa to the UK.

The marriage will be a contract marriage. I will pay for the wedding, the travel and also her stay in the UK for one year. Also, I will be paying for expenses of education as well as staying,” says Harpreet Singh from Amritsar. “After one year, the marriage will end mutually, by which time I would have settled in the UK.”

Harpreet says the reason he wants to go abroad is not that he needs money, but because all his family members and many of his friends have already settled in the UK. “I tried for a visa twice but was rejected,” he adds.

Kuljeet Singh says: “Joining peer groups, especially friends who have managed to go abroad, is the new thing. Earlier, people wanted to go out to join families; now, it is for friends.”

Failed effort at streamlining

In 2008, the then Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab tried to streamline the working of agents and mooted an Act to register all travel agents in the state. It took the government almost six years to implement the Act.

“Currently, there are over 1,550 travel agents registered in the state under the Punjab Travel Professional Regulation Act 2013, and the lists are on the district websites,” says Punjab home secretary Satish Chandra. Another 70 agencies are registered with the Protector-General of Emigrants, Ministry of External Affairs.

However, Jatinder Walia, the current president of the Punjab Travel Agents Association, says: “The number of registered agents is very low. The number of travel agents functional in Punjab is over 6,000.”

Walia says the 2013 Act has not been able to make any effective contribution in stopping unscrupulous agents from operating. “The law failed to take a practical view of the situation. Instead of registering travel agents and demanding a huge fee for the licences, the government should take a nominal fee and register more agents, bringing them under the ambit of this law,” he says.

Walia adds that though the Act has strict provisions for punishment, its entire purpose is defeated by the fact that an agent who hasn’t registered with the government cannot be booked for duping people.

Why Punjabis leave thousands of toy planes at this gurudwara near Jalandhar

Pieter Friedrich – Tulsi Gabbard campaign violently assaults peaceful protestor

On 8 January 2020 evening, I attended a Concord, New Hampshire town hall for presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard and raised signs regarding her association with the Nazi-inspired RSS paramilitary.

I was immediately violently assaulted by Gabbard campaign thugs, who attacked me for quietly and peacefully holding signs reading “Tulsi: Mascot of India’s KKK” and “Tulsi Whitewashes India’s KKK.”

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

Discover more by him at

www.pieterfriedrich.net

YouTube video on the event :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovV5Omof5Y4&feature=youtu.be

Pieter Friedrich – New Hampshire: Tulsi Gabbard faces foreign interference allegations

Gabbard challenged at Hanover town hall and Londonderry town council

Hanover – New Hampshire – USA, 07 January 2020. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is facing allegations of foreign interference in her past congressional campaigns as she crisscrosses New Hampshire hosting daily town halls for her presidential campaign.

On Sunday evening, reported The Hill, Gabbard was questioned at a Hanover, NH town hall over “whether she had financially supported India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Challenged over a picture of her wearing a scarf with the BJP’s logo, she responded: “Somebody put something around my neck and snapped a picture without my knowing what it was. That’s what happened in the picture.”

“Ignorance is bliss,” remarked questioner Jada Bernard afterwards. “I would love to take her at her word that she was naive enough to take that picture with a BJP lobbyist while wearing a BJP scarf, but it wasn’t the first event she spoke at while wearing the BJP scarf throughout.

She dismissed me as a religious bigot, but argumentum ad hominem is a fallacious argument directed at the messenger instead of the topic at hand, which is BJP events, money, and ideology. It doesn’t matter who I am.

Google the info, not me. I’m not running for president. I’m a barber.” On Monday evening, Bernard was joined by South Asian affairs analyst Pieter Friedrich at the Londonderry, NH town council meeting.

In public remarks to the council, Friedrich referenced Gabbard’s presence at an Overseas Friends of the BJP banquet in 2014, saying, “The BJP’s Foreign Affairs Cell Chief discussed her campaign for re-election to a second term.

The foreign politician told the American congresswoman: ‘Your victory later this year is a foregone conclusion.’ Then Gabbard posed for pictures wearing a scarf with the BJP logo.”

Bernard told the council, “We all heard how Hillary Clinton accused Tulsi Gabbard of being a Russian asset.

But Tulsi doesn’t want you to know that Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a national media watch group, called the Russia accusations a ‘distraction’ from the ‘reality that Gabbard’s most troubling attribute is her documented connection to the far-right Hindu nationalist, or Hindutva, movement known as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organization of India’s ruling BJP party.’”

Discussing the influence of the Ku Klux Klan while he was growing up in Louisiana, Bernard added, “Today, the Klan is a widely despised group in America which holds no official political power.

But the KKK of India has held power there for the past five years. India’s KKK is called the RSS. The RSS is responsible for lynchings, assassinations, bombings, and pogroms against Christians, Muslims, and anyone who stands up against its xenophobic agenda.”

Video of the Londonderry remarks by Friedrich and Bernard as well as Bernard’s question at the Hanover town hall have gone viral on Twitter.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

Discover more by him at:

www.pieterfriedrich.net

The Hindu – Exclusive: Five months later government invites diplomat delegation to Jammu and Kashmir

Officials have already contacted many of the interlocutors expected to meet with the delegation, and the logistics of the visit will be organised by the Army.

Suhasini Haidar & Peerzada Ashiq

New Delhi/Srinagar – India, 07 January 2020. Five months after its decision on Article 370, the government has invited the first group of Delhi-based diplomats to travel to Srinagar and assess the situation there, and is now awaiting a response from them.

Unlike the controversial visit of the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) delegation in October, which was invited to India by a British businesswoman and a think tank in Delhi, this visit is being organised completely by the government, including the Ministry of External Affairs, Home Affairs and Defence.

According to sources in Delhi and Srinagar, security, hotel and travel arrangements are in place for the visit that is expected as early as this week.

The Hindu has learnt that the invitation has been extended to about 20 Ambassadors and senior diplomats from the European Union, Gulf countries and others to visit Kashmir, and government agencies have organised for them to meet with various civil society groups, journalists, sarpanchs, municipal councillors as well as local businessmen there.

Officials have already contacted many of the interlocutors expected to meet with the delegation, and the logistics of the visit will be organised by the Army. Several interactions are scheduled at the Badamibagh Cantonment area.

This handout photograph taken on October 28, 2019 and released by India’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi posing for a group photograph with members of the European Parliament in New Delhi.

However, it is unclear whether the first batch of visitors will go to Jammu and Kashmir as originally planned on 09 January, and whether all invitees, particularly those from the European Union countries will attend.

According to diplomats from at least four of the countries invited, none of whom agreed to be identified, the invitation has been discussed at a meeting of all European Union (EU) missions in Delhi, but they have not yet confirmed their acceptance.

“The proposal [from the government] is being discussed by EU members. We have decided that our response will be a joint one, common to us all,” said one of the diplomats.

When asked why there has been no confirmation for the programme as yet, a diplomat told The Hindu that the group of Ambassadors were not satisfied to undertake the visit on the same terms as the MEPs delegation were taken on, and wanted more access to their own contacts on the ground as well as a wider range of areas to visit.

“Our response will depend on how much flexibility the government shows and whether there will be a balance of views taken into account.” After the last visit, at least one British MEP had expressed his unhappiness over not being allowed to speak freely to locals.

Officials said a wider range of interlocutors had indeed been planned, and different agencies had been asked to prepare lists well in advance for the diplomats’ visit, which had been due to take place shortly after the MEP delegation in October, but couldn’t be held.

Many of the embassies in Delhi, including the United Kingdom, United States and Germany had expressed their displeasure over the fact that their diplomats had not been allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir after 05 August, despite repeated requests, whereas more than 20 MEPs, mostly belonging to opposition Right-wing parties in Europe had been taken there, and had met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar as well.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/five-months-later-government-invites-diplomat-delegation-to-jammu-and-kashmir/article30505185.ece

Dawn – Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used against anyone, says DG ISPR

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 05 January 2020. Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor on Sunday, while speaking to ARY News, said that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used against anyone and will play its role to secure peace in the region.

Major Geneneral Ghafoor said the aforementioned sentiments had been expressed by both the Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General (COAS) Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“Pakistan will not be party to anyone or anything but will be a partner of peace and peace alone,” he said, quoting Prime Minister Imran.

The director-general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in reply to a question regarding the killing of Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani in a US strike on Friday, said the regional situation had been altered and Pakistan would play its role in helping peace prevail.

Major General Soleimani was killed on Friday morning in a US strike on Baghdad’s international airport, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries. Shortly after, General Bajwa in a call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had emphasised the “need for maximum restraint and constructive engagement” following the killing of Soleimani.

Discussing the phone call between the army chief and Pompeo, Ghafoor said General Bajwa had said two things.

Firstly, he said that the region was improving from very bad conditions, adding that the Afghan reconciliation process is very important for this improvement. He added that Pakistan would play its role in this and wants the focus to remain on the issue.

Secondly, he said the army chief had told Pompeo that tensions in the region should be reduced. He said all relevant countries should move forward with constructive practices and dialogue. “Pakistan will support all peaceful efforts and hopes the region doesn’t go towards another war,” he quoted the army chief as saying.

Responding to a question regarding rumours that Pakistan would participate in the war by supporting the United States against Iran, Ghafoor said such rumours were circulating on social media. He clarified, however, that this was not the first call [between Pompeo and Gen Bajwa].

“From the Afghan reconciliation process to the regional security, the army chief has an important role,” he said, adding that the Foreign Office had also issued a statement. The Foreign Office via a statement had also expressed “deep concern” over the tensions, urging all sides to exercise restraint.

“My request to the people and media would be to only pay attention to statements from an authentic source,” he said, adding that they should not pay attention to “propaganda” and “rumours of enemies of the country”.

“India is playing the lead role in spreading these rumours,” he said, adding that he had read an Indian news article that Pakistan had ditched Iran and the resumption of Pakistan’s participation in a US military training and educational programme.

“In our bilateral relations with America, training cooperation was suspended. For the past four to five months, America has been talking about restoring this because training engagement in military to military cooperation goes on.

“Linking something that has been going on for quite a few months to this incident is part of that propaganda campaign.”

The army’s spokesman said that peace had been achieved in Pakistan after a lot of sacrifices, adding that the nation will play its role for peace in the region.

“We will not be part of any effort to ruin this peace,” he said.

Path India on will lead to its own destruction

Speaking about the new Indian army chief’s threatening statements against Pakistan, Major General Ghafoor said that Lt General Manoj Mukund Naravane had been newly installed as the army chief and is “busy trying to make a place for himself” but is not new to the institution itself.

“He knows full well the situation in the region and the capability of the Pakistan army. “He was part of the Indian force on 27 February as well. So he’s not new.”

Major General Ghafoor expressed hope that General Naravane “will no longer let go of reason”. “The Pakistan army knows how to defend the country and India also knows this,” he said. The army spokesperson said that Pakistan desires peace in the region but will make no comprises when it comes to safeguarding its security.

“The Indian army chief should, instead of giving such statements, end the clampdown in occupied Kashmir, end oppression there, and play his role in ending the ongoing tyranny in India due to the Hindutva thought,” said Major General Ghafoor.

He said that the path India is on “will lead to its own destruction”.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1526443/pakistan-will-not-allow-its-soil-to-be-used-against-anyone-says-dg-ispr

The Hindu – India caught in the crossfire as Trump invokes Delhi post Soleimani killing

But Iran’s Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni denies allegation that Soleimani was behind terror attacks.

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi – India, 04 January 2020. India got caught in the crossfire between the United States and Iran after President Donald Trump blamed assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani for a spate of terror attacks, including one in Delhi, a charge Iran’s envoy to India has denied.

In a statement in Washington, Mr Trump justified the killing of Mr Soleimani in a missile attack on his convoy outside the Baghdad airport, saying that the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) international operations or “Quds force” was responsible for several terror attacks and was planning more.

“Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London,” Mr. Trump said.

Iran’s Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni denied the allegations. “Mr Trump can say anything he likes, he can give any list of attacks that he likes. But this is a big lie. General Soleimani was a soldier, he was not involved in the targetting of innocents anywhere,” Mr Chegeni said in an interview to The Hindu.

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on Mr Trump’s statement, which brought New Delhi into the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Mr Trump is believed to have referred to the car bombing of an Israeli diplomat in Delhi in February 2012. The diplomat, who was also the wife of the Israeli defence attaché, was injured in the attack along with three others.

At the time, the Delhi Police’s special cell that investigated the case believed it was connected with attacks on Israeli diplomats in Tbilisi, Georgia as well as Bangkok, Thailand, and was reportedly carried out by IRGC agents at the time in retaliation for attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.

Delhi Police officials say the case has not moved since 2013, when the lone suspect, an Indian journalist with an Iranian news agency, was granted bail, a decision that was upheld in the Supreme Court.

Mr Chegeni said that by raising the issue, Mr Trump was attempting to cover the USA’s action in killing the Iranian official while he was visiting Iraq after travelling to Syria for “anti-terrorism consultations”.

“General Soleimani fought against the ISIS, Jubhat Al Nusra, Al-Qaeda. He was invited to Syria and Iraq by their governments for advice and assistance on fighting these terror groups. So anyone who assassinated him, is for the terrorists. And if this was ordered by their President, as the USA says, then this is an act of state terrorism,” he noted.

New Delhi expresses concern

On Friday, India issued a statement that expressed concern over rising tensions between the USA and Iran, and “noted” the USA’s killing of the senior Iranian official.

When asked, Mr. Chegeni said he expected India would also “condemn the assassination of an official who was on a visit to another country on official invitation.”

He stated, “We expect India as our reliable friend to advise the United States to follow international norms and not destabilise the region. We have the right to retaliate, but Iranians are patient, we will choose the time and place of our response to this killing.”

Tougher language is expected from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is due in Delhi on 14 January to address the Raisina dialogue. The 3-day event, where USA Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger will also speak, could see India, which has attempted a “tightrope walk” in ties with both countries, caught in the middle again.

With inputs from Saurabh Trivedi

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/trump-invoking-delhi-after-soleimani-killing-puts-new-delhi-in-a-fix/article30479336.ece?homepage=true

Tolo News – Ex-Guantanamo Prisoner: “My world was very small”

Obaidullah was eighteen years old when he was arrested by US forces, now he is 36

“I was looking at the moon from the window of the cell where I was imprisoned,” said Obaidullah, a former Taliban member, who was released last week from the Guantanamo Bay detention center and reintegrated with his family in Khost province after nearly two decades of separation.

Khost – Afghanistan, 02 January 2019. Obaidullah, now 36, was just eighteen years old when he was detained and he has spent nearly half of his life in US custody.

“I was associated with the Taliban only for a short period of time. I was serving in the Taliban’s military section, therefore I was arrested by the American forces,” the former Taliban member told TOLOnews’ Sharif Amiri.

“They (US forces) imposed on us the most brutal acts during our detention as if we were the most dangerous criminals. I had no hope that someday I would rejoin my family,” said Osman, Obaidullah’s cousin who was also released from the US jail after three months from Bagram prison.

Obaidullah’s family said that his release was a dream for them.

“We had no information about Obaidullah for two and half years, however, there were some rumors in the media that he was transferred to Guantanamo prison, but we received a letter from him after two and half a years, then the letters started coming from him more regularly with the help of ICRC and then we started having online calls,” said Mohammad Akram, Obaidullah’s brother.

Obaidullah was eighteen years old when he was arrested by US forces. Obaidullah became the father of a baby girl only three days before his arrest. However, he was always living with her memories in the jail.

“I want my children to go to school and study, because we cannot achieve development without learning. Afghanistan needs its children to study and become educated,” said Obaidullah.

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/ex-gitmo-prisoner-%E2%80%9Cmy-world-was-very-small%E2%80%9D