– Academics and activists praise new book which “probes what it means to be Sikh”

Book launch of Captivating the Simple-Hearted Scheduled in Northern California

Sikh24 Editors

San Francisco – Calfornia – USA, 15 March 2018. Explaining why she will be the keynote speaker at the March 24 book launch of Captivating the Simple-Hearted, sociology professor Indira Prahst states, “The book probes what it means to be Sikh and brings important questions of Sikh resistance into the forefront with a wide spectrum of historical accounts that rupture hegemonic discourses.”

Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity, written by Pieter Friedrich and Bhajan Singh, is being welcomed as a fresh perspective on the origins of the Sikh people.

Describing its unique angle, Naindeep Singh, the founder of Jakara Movement, says, “While today’s rendering of Sikh history focuses on privileged groups and their historical outcomes, Friedrich and Singh attempt to re-look at old sources to forge new readings, interpretations, and underline the importance of the Guru’s message to those that have been most oppressed, but still raise the sword of eternal optimism (chardikala).”

“Captivating the Simple-Hearted is itself captivating in its narrative flow,” says Dr Rajkumar Hans, a former professor of history at Baroda University.

Referring those historically treated as untouchables (Dalits) as well as tribals (Adivasis), who are today often collectively referred to as Mulnivasi, he writes, “Looking at a long history of what Babasaheb Ambedkar called ‘revolutions and counter-revolutions’ while focusing on the Mulnivasi, the work is a valuable, crisp reinterpretation of the Sikh Revolution.”

He also believes it offers a challenge to the supremacist Hindu nationalist philosophy known as Hindutva, writing, “This little book has a potential of forging solidarity among the victims of horrendous Hindutva majoritarianism for a future egalitarian society as it is solidly based on the rich heritage of emancipatory movements, Sikhism in particular.”

Meanwhile, the book’s portrayal of opposition to the caste system as central to the rise of the Sikhs is drawing attention from Dr Manisha Bangar, who serves as National Vice-President of All India Backward And Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF).

“The authors compellingly argue for the suffering millions to derive inspiration from the Sikh Revolution which envisioned India as a modern, casteless, classless society with equitable mobility and which galvanized the masses,” comments Bangar.

Dr Harpreet Singh, a professor of South Asian Traditions at Harvard University, offers a similar opinion. He writes, “Captivating is a timely work that interrogates the structure of caste and its impact on the marginalized peoples of South Asia.

The work weaves a rich brocade of history, ideology, and praxis that has been put to use by the elite at the apex of the caste pyramid to subjugate hundreds of millions of people in one of the most oppressive nations on earth.”

Dr. Vislavath Rajunayak is a visiting scholar at University of California, Berkeley who specializes in issues of tribal history and traditions.

He believes the book demonstrates that Sikhism was historically embraced by the “lowest of the low” in Indian society, remarking, “If you read Captivating the Simple-Hearted, you will be amazed to know about the Gurus’ wonderful proclivity towards the Mulnivasi.”

He boldly declares, “Anyone who wants freedom in this world should partake of this history to learn about facing today’s challenges.”

A professor of ethnic studies at Sacramento State University, Dr Amrik Singh draws similar conclusions, explaining, “This book blends the vision of Guru Granth Sahib and the Mulnivasi history into one goal given by Guru Nanak when he said the Guru’s blessing shall pour forth where the lowest of the low are cared for and protected.”

Reviewers are also praising the book for telling the history of the oppressed Mulnivasi from their own perspective rather than relying on the narratives of “court historians.”

Thus, anthropologist Dr Shrikant Borkar states, “Captivating the Simple-Hearted remains a necessary read on aboriginal history.

This monograph subsumes one of the historical attempts of indigenous people to write their own history of defiance and subversion for the sake of upholding human values and egalitarian principles rather than power, hegemony, or supremacy.”

In agreement, Colonel G B Singh (USA Army, retired) calls Captivating “an Alternate History of its kind or the Other Side of the Story.”

Singh, who is the author of two books examining “the other side” of Mohandas Gandhi, adds, “This is a monumental, groundbreaking, intellectual book based upon accurate primary sources with historical rigors applied and then properly analyzed right to the core of ground realities.”

Suggesting the book offers a broad historical perspective, Dr Amrik Singh comments, “Captivating the Simple-Hearted is a sincere scholarly attempt to examine the course of the historical journey of the Indian subcontinent.” The authors welcome such reviews.

“We wanted to provide readers insight into why the development of the Sikh people in Northern India was such a catalytic event for the course of the history of the entire subcontinent,” comments Pieter Friedrich, a California-based writer.

Bhajan Singh, a community activist, remarks, “In service to the humanity of this planet, I hope my humble effort will be a beacon of learning for all the world’s oppressed.”

Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent will be formally released during a book launch on Saturday, March 24 from 4pm-7pm at Crowne Plaza, 32083 Alvarado-Niles Rd., Union City, CA 94587.

Speakers at the event will include Professor Indira Prahst (Langara College, Vancouver), Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra (Khalra Mission Organisation), Dr Amrik Singh, Naindeep Singh, Suthamalli Ganga (Ambedkar Association of North America), and Col. G. B. Singh. There is no cost for the event, but books will be available for sale. Snacks and tea will be served.

Captivating the Simple-Hearted is available to order by emailing


The Tribune – ‘We are Sikhs’ in fray for PR award in US

Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service

Bathinda, 13 March 2018. “We are Sikhs”, an ad campaign launched by the National Sikh Campaign (NSC) to sensitise Americans, has been shortlisted for PR Week US Award 2018, considered to be the Oscars for the PR industry there.

The ad campaign is among five finalists for the “Best for a Cause” category, which recognises premier marketing communications cause, showing a worthwhile benefit to a specific community.

Other competitors in the category are corporate-sponsored ads focusing on significant issues facing the American society.

The NSC and FP1 Strategies have been nominated for the Sikh ad campaign titled, “Telling the Story of Sikh Americans: Reshaping Perceptions Through Education and Awareness”. The NSC has engaged FP1 for marketing of national effort by the Sikhs to inform Americans about Sikhism and the Sikh identity.

“Without doubt, 2017 had the most press coverage about Sikh Americans in the US. It’s an incredible feeling to know that our work has been selected among so many great corporate and non-profit causes,” Rajwant Singh, co-founder and senior adviser to the NSC, told The Tribune over phone.

“Sikhs still have a long way to go to change perceptions about them across the US, but the awareness campaign in 2017 did make a difference. We must continue on this path. The NSC has plans for 2018 as well,” he added.

Richard Cullen, executive vice-president of FP1 Strategies, said: “We are thrilled to be shortlisted for the award in a category filled with excellent campaigns that have made tremendous social impact.” – World Sikh Parliament: massive gathering takes place in New York to discuss panthik issues

Sikh24 Editors

New York – USA, 8 March 2018. To tackle serious issues emerged in front of the Sikh community, an announcement to constitute an international Sikh body named World Sikh Parliament was made in Birmingham last year.

As per the direction of Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara, invitations to renowned Sikh personalities, Sikh organizations and management committees of worldwide Gurdwaras were sent so that constructive steps could be taken as per consensus of worldwide Sikhs.

A two days convention was organized by the 15 member coordination committee of World Sikh Parliament in New York on March 3 & 4, which witnessed a flood of Sikh activists from all the world. Sikh leaders from Australia, New Zealand, Punjab, India, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Canada and USA shared their valuable views in this convention.

Serious discussions continued for near about six hours on March 3 as well as on March 4.

An announcement to constitute a 15 member committee of World Sikh Parliament in Punjab on Vaisakhi was made in this convention.

Advocate Amar Singh Chahal, who was specially invited in this convention, read the message of Akal Takht Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara in support of the World Sikh Convention. Jathedar Hawara extended wishes from the core of his heart for the success of this convention and hoped for constitution of World Sikh Parliament at the earliest.

USA based S. Swaranjit Singh, S. Daljit Singh, Dr. Pritpal Singh (Stockton), Dr. Amarjit Singh, S. Kuldeep Singh, S. Karnail Singh (Richmond Hill), Dr. Shamsher Singh, Dr. Hardam Singh Azad, S. Hardial Singh (United Sikhs), S. Gurdev Singh Mann, Bibi Sarabjit Kaur, Bibi Gurmeet Kaur, S. Beant Singh, S. Baljinder Singh Seattle, S. Narinder Singh Virginia, S. Jasjit Singh Khalsa, S. Sampuran Singh Houston, S. Jaswant Singh Hothi etc. also attended this convention.

Advocate Amar Singh Chahal, Bhai Surinder Singh, Dr. Gurdarshan Singh, S. Jasbir Singh (President, Italy Sikh Council), Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Nagoke, Professor Harpal Singh, Bhai Sukhrajwinder Singh Australia, Bhai Kuldeep Singh, Bhai Sham Singh, S. Maninder Singh, S. Daljinder Singh, S. Kuldeep Singh Canada, S. Bhagat Singh Bhandal, S. Kulvir Singh, S. Dupinderjit Singh UK, S. Jagjit Singh, S. Jagbir Singh, S. Jaswinder Singh Holland (The Netherlands), S. Gurcharan Singh Goraya (Germany), S. Narinder Singh etc. laid stress on the of need of a sovereign Sikh state.

They said that the right wing Hindu bodies were oppressing the minorities in India and the constitution of World Sikh Parliament in this situation will act as a source of light.

Bhai Dupinderjit Singh UK and Bhai Jaswinder Singh (The Netherlands) announced the names of 13 members of UK and names of 14 members of Europe respectively.

Bhai Himmat Singh USA informed the convention attendees on this occasion that the total count of members of World Sikh Parliament has now reached to 94.

Giani Ram Singh Ji Damdami Taksal, Former Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Bhai Satnam Singh Khanda, Bhai Joga Singh, Bhai Manpreet Singh (Satkar Committee Vancouver), Bhai Ranjit Singh Sarai, Bhai Amrik Singh Sahota (Council of Khalistan, UK), Bhai Atinderpal Singh, Advocate Navkiran Singh, J.S. Ahluwalia, S. Baljit Singh Khalsa, S. Jasdev Singh (Member, Supreme Council Fremont) and several other renowned Sikh activists sent their warm wishes in written for the success of this convention.


Dawn – Pakistan may find itself on FATF blacklist after June

Anwar Iqbal

Washington DC-USA, 26 February 2018. Pakistan may find itself on the blacklist of a global financial watchdog if it does not prepare a comprehensive action plan to eradicate terrorist financing by June, official sources told Dawn.

The 37-nation Financial Action Task Force (FATF) held its plenary meeting in Paris last week where it placed Pakistan on a watchlist of the countries where terrorist outfits are still allowed to raise funds.

On Friday, the group issued an updated grey list, along with a statement announcing the decisions taken at the plenary session, and Pakistan was not on the list. Officials in Islamabad interpreted this as a “breather”, although it’s more of a technical detail.

The grey list identifies the “jurisdictions with strategic anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism deficiencies for which they have developed an action plan with the FATF”.

Pakistan has not yet worked out the proposed plan with the FATF and that’s why it’s not on the list.

The FATF carries out an in-depth study of the financial system of a country, known as “mutual evaluation”, as part of the process to avoid blacklisting.

The next evaluation starts in April, which may take 18 months, and will be followed by another 12 months of analysis. A mutually agreed action plan for overcoming “strategic deficiencies” would become operative at the end of evaluation.

Between now and June, Pakistan will have to work out the details of the evaluation process with the FATF and a failure to do so could trigger another process, which may push Pakistan on the blacklist of wilful violators.

Usually, the FATF waits for a mutual evaluation report before starting the listing process but in Pakistan’s case, the group took an unprecedented step when it agreed to debate a US proposal, backed by Britain, France and Germany, to nominate Pakistan as a country having “strategic deficiencies” in “countering financing of terrorism”.

“The move was against the understanding given to Pakistan that Islamabad will be asked to work with the FATF on an action plan, before the listing process starts,” an official source told Dawn.

The Paris plenary held its first meeting on Pakistan on 20 February where China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which was representing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as it’s not a full member, opposed the move to place Pakistan on the watchlist. But the US pushed for an unprecedented second discussion on Pakistan, held on 22 February.

By then, Washington had convinced Riyadh to give up its support to Pakistan in return for a full FATF membership. This left only two, China and Turkey, in the Pakistan camp, one less than the required number of three members to stall a move.

At this stage, the Chinese informed Islamabad that they were opting out as they did not want to “lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail”, another official source told Dawn.

“Pakistan appreciated the Chinese position and conveyed its gratitude to Turkey for continuing to support Islamabad against all odds,” the source added.

After the 20 February meeting, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif sent out a celebratory tweet, saying that Pakistan had won a three-month reprieve.

Hours after the tweet, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert indicated at a news briefing in Washington that Islamabad’s celebrations were premature. She said the Paris plenary was not over yet and it would hold another meeting on Pakistan on 22 February, as it did.

She also mentioned Hafiz Saeed and his activities while detailing US complaints against Pakistan and the sources that spoke to Dawn after the 22 February meeting said that indeed Hafiz Saeed and his “charities” were top on the list of the groups that the FATF wanted Pakistan to act against.

Pakistan did make some laws before the Paris meeting that would allow it to act against these groups but apparently that was not enough to convince the FATF.

Pakistan was first put on the FATF grey list in 2012 but was removed in 2015, after the FATF certified that Islamabad had done enough to counter terror financing.

Now, Pakistan will have to follow the same process that it did in 2015, starting with an action plan that Islamabad is required to submit in May.

If the FATF approves the action plan in June, it will make a formal announcement about placing Pakistan on the grey list. Should Islamabad fail to submit an action plan, or if the FATF does not accept it, the group can place Pakistan on its black list, along with North Korea and Iran.


The Times of India – Sikh mayor in US faces death threats

I P Singh

Jalandhar-Panjab-India, 19 February 2018. Indian American lawyer Ravinder Singh Bhalla, who was elected first Sikh mayor of Hoboken city in New Jersey some three months ago, has acknowledged he and his family are facing death threats after an unidentified man left a bag in his office in his office.

Days before his election, Bhalla was linked with “terrorism” in a slanderous flyer. Hoboken police department said it has taken the incident with incredible seriousness and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has also evaluated the City Hall.

A statement on the official website of the Hoboken City Council revealed that the police department was investigating the incident which occurred on Thursday night and this also quoted Bhalla disclosing death threats to him and his family.

“A male individual entered City Hall through the Newark Street entrance just before 8 pm on Thursday, February 15, 2018. The person went through metal detectors and told security officers that he was going to use the restroom. At the time, the only person in the mayor’s office was deputy chief of staff Jason Freeman.

Mayor Bhalla was on his way to the office following a community meeting. From his office, Mr Freeman observed that a bag with an object had been thrown in the direction of the administrative assistant’s desk and made eye contact with the individual.

The individual then ran out of the mayor’s office. Mr Freeman called the police, which are currently investigating the incident,” added the statement.

“This incident, along with death threats to me and my family, is an unfortunate reminder that we need to take security seriously,” said Bhalla.

“The Joint Terrorism Task Force has evaluated City Hall, and we have been working to implement their recommendations for physical and procedural changes to improve security for all employees in the building,” he added.

“We take incidents like these incredibly seriously and will continue working to ensure the security of the mayor and everyone who visits City Hall,” said Hoboken police chief Kenneth Ferrante.

Bhalla, an attorney and civil rights activist, had earlier served serving as a councilman on the city council.

However, during the run-up to the election, slanderous flyers were spotted on the car windshields on which “Don’t let terrorism take over our town” was printed above Bhalla’s photograph. “A potential conflict of interest that could cost Hoboken taxpayers millions” was printed along with the photograph, leading to a major controversy.


The Huffington Post – Sikh activist’s campaign a reminder that love can be a force for justice

“The greatest social movements in history were rooted in the ethic of love,” says Valarie Kaur.

Carol Kuruvilla

Religion, 14 February 2018. On Valentine’s Day, love is typically celebrated as an intense, personal feeling, an intimate, romantic bond that ties two humans together. But a Sikh American activist wants to challenge people to think about love in much more expansive terms.

Valarie Kaur, a lawyer and a longtime interfaith organizer, believes love can be used as a force for social justice. She points to the examples of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, whom she said used love to ground their social movements.

“I believe … that the greatest social movements in history were rooted in the ethic of love,” the 37-year-old told the Huffington Post.

On Wednesday, Kaur teamed up with other activists to launch a social media effort that she hopes will encourage people to “reclaim love” as a force for good in the world during a time of increased polarization.

She’s enlisted the help of others interested in tackling rising white nationalism and hate during the presidency of Donald Trump, CNN host Van Jones, founder of the activist organization #LoveArmy, the organizers of the Women’s March, and Our Three Winners, a foundation created to honor three Muslim students who were killed in a shooting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2015.

The #ReclaimLove campaign is a “cultural intervention,” Kaur said, that seeks to unite a divided America.

“Last year we saw an onslaught of executive orders, Muslim bans, border walls, pipelines, budget cuts, hate crimes. We barely had a chance to breathe between the crises,” she said. “But we know that unless we ground our resistance in love, unless we ground our movement in love, we will burn out or we will become the very thing that we are resisting.”

Dozens of social media users have chimed in to support Kaur’s campaign online.

Kaur’s work as an activist began years ago. She was deeply affected when a close family friend, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was killed in a hate crime days after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The injustice of Sodhi’s death inspired Kaur, a California native, to seek out ways to increase interfaith understanding and solidarity. For years, the Sikh American woman worked as a filmmaker and an activist who sought to bring awareness to the discrimination faced by marginalized groups in the USA.

Then, the 2016 presidential election happened. Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims experienced an increase in hate crimes and rhetoric during the election at levels similar to those that followed the 2001 attacks.

She began to think that the world she was going to leave her young son would be much more dangerous than the one she inherited. Kaur wrestled with those feelings in a sermon she preached during an interfaith service at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, in December 2016.

She sought to approach these issues from the lens of a feminist and a woman of color, comparing the work of those fighting against white supremacy and hate to the struggles of a mother in labor. A video of her sermon went viral online last year.

In a Ted Talk released on February 9, Kaur outlined three ways that she believes “revolutionary love” can be put into action. First, she advised, love others by seeing no other human beings as strangers.

Second, love opponents by tending to their wounds, or in other words, looking for what has hurt them. Lastly, she said it was important to “love ourselves” and seek out joy in times of darkness.

“If we can cultivate love in the directions that we’re missing, not just toward others but also to our opponents and toward ourselves as well, then we can last,” she said. “Not only just outlast this administration, then we can start to imagine birthing a different future for our children.”


The Tribune – ‘Racist’ attack on US gas station owned by Sikh

Washington DC-USA, 7 February 2018. A gas station owned by a Sikh in the US state of Kentucky has been vandalised by a masked man with racist slurs and vulgar phrases, according to media reports.

The station in Greenup County was hit by vandals last week, sending shock waves among community members.

The vandals spray-painted vulgar phrases and symbols such as “white power, swastikas, and language too vulgar to air”, the local WSAZ TV said.

The TV channel said security footage showed a person wearing a ski mask approaching the store just after 11:30 pm.

Store owner Gary Singh, who came to America in the early 1990s, said he was shocked by the incident. “I was really nervous about that. It happened to me for the first time in this store in four years. I’ve never done wrong to the community here. I try to help the community all the time,” he said.

According to local Daily Mail, there were obscenities and other crudely lettered markings on the store that appear to say “leave”.

The Kentucky State Police said they were investigating the case as criminal mischief but they do plan on working with county prosecutors to discuss a hate crime charge on those responsible. (PTI)

Advertisements – 100 days of arrest: activists to raise awareness of Jagtar Singh Johal’s continued detention

Sikh24 Editors

London-UK, 3 February 2018. The detention of 30-year-old Scottish activist Jagtar Singh Johal continues, without charge, and has reached more than 90 days in custody. He was abducted by the Punjab police on 4 November 2017, without any charges.

As the Punjab Police continually ask for extensions, the Indian judges have granted repeated remands, with Jagtar appearing in court more than 20 times since his abduction.

To this day, Jagtar continues to be shifted back and forth between NIA and judicial custody. Despite the confirmation of torture taking place during the first few days of his incarceration, he has been denied the right to an independent medical examination as well as private meetings with the British High Commission.

Jagtar’s detainment will reach 100 days in mid-February. To help raise awareness, a Twitter event has been organized on Monday 12 February, 2018, with coordinated times in UK (8pm), USA (3pm EST) and Canada (3pm EST).

Please share this event with your local sangat at Gurdwara, community, school, friends and family.

For the latest updates, please follow this campaign on all social media:

Twitter: @FreeJaggiNow

Facebook: Free Jaggi Now

Instagram: freejagginow


Dawn – Afghan war turns bloodier

Zahid Hussain

Op/Ed, 31 January 2018. The latest wave of terror attacks in Kabul that has claimed dozens of civilian lives marks the bloodiest phase of the so far 16-year war with the insurgents getting more audacious.

The escalation in fighting raises questions about the new US-Afghan strategy. Not that the Afghan capital has not witnessed such high-profile terrorist attacks before, but the ferocity and the frequency of assaults is alarming.

Three attacks in a week in high-security zones indicate the increasing capacity and the organisation of the insurgents despite massive escalation in the US air strikes.

While the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for two of the first two attacks, the militant Islamic State (IS) group reportedly carried out the third one. The insurgents have taken the war into the nation’s capital. The rising toll of civilian casualties is disturbing.

It signals a shift in insurgent strategy, from gaining territorial control to focusing more on the capital to test the mettle of the Afghan security forces. It seems that the Afghan Taliban and IS are competing when it comes to carnage in the besieged capital and other towns and cities in Afghanistan.

The chaos resulting from the violence serves the objective of these militant groups, to undermine the confidence of the Kabul administration.

It seems that the Afghan Taliban and IS are in a race to massacre the most people

Indeed, the Afghan National Army has improved its performance greatly over time, but it is still not capable of dealing with such organised terrorist attacks on its own. The frequent breach of security by the insurgents has further exposed the incapacity of the Afghan security agencies.

While the Taliban control vast swathes of territory, the increasing presence of IS in Afghanistan is extremely worrisome. The terrorist group that is fighting both Kabul and the Taliban has been responsible for several high-profile attacks in the capital over the last few months.

The terrorist group has made some inroads in eastern and northern Afghanistan. The rise of IS has brought greater devastation and caused a spike in the number of civilian casualties.

The latest surge in militant attacks has come as the relentless US air strikes have forced the Taliban to retreat from some of their strongholds in western Afghanistan. But the US military offensive has failed to contain the insurgency that has now spread to vast areas.

There has not been any cessation in the fighting, not even in the winter months. The situation is likely to get worse with the approach of the fighting season. The weakening writ of the Afghan government in the hinterland has given further impetus to the insurgents.

Predictably, the violence has evoked a strong reaction from Washington. There are clear indications that the Trump administration will intensify military action in Afghanistan. Addressing the UN Security Council members in the aftermath of the Kabul attacks, President Trump vowed to take the battle to the finish.

“What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” the US president declared.

Notwithstanding Trump’s tough tenor, such promises have also been made by previous US administrations in the past decade. It is hard to believe that the massive use of air strikes alone could bring this festering war to an end.

Trump has ruled out negotiations with the Taliban, at least for now. So the US administration is still pursuing an elusive military victory that it has failed to achieve in the past 16 years with more than 150,000 troops on the ground.

Some reports suggest that more American troops could be deployed after the recent insurgent attacks. That may only get the US mired deeper in Afghanistan. Even the closest of America’s Western allies are sceptical of Trump’s militaristic approach.

Not surprisingly, the surge in militant violence inside Afghanistan has increased pressure on Islamabad. Both Kabul and Washington have once again accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants.

They have also blamed Pakistani security agencies for facilitating those responsible for the carnage. More alarming is the growing Afghan-Indian nexus demanding tougher US action against Pakistan.

There are clear indications that the Trump administration is getting ready to tighten the screws on Pakistan further and intensify air strikes on alleged Taliban sanctuaries inside this country’s tribal region.

The recent attack on reportedly an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency that has allegedly been used as a sanctuary for the Haqqani network is ominous. There is also a strong possibility of the US slapping economic and military sanctions on Pakistan and using its influence to persuade multilateral financial institutions to squeeze assistance.

Washington has already suspended military assistance to Pakistan. There could also be a move to get the country declared as a terrorist haven.

Surely such radical moves cannot succeed. Still, they would put greater diplomatic pressure on Islamabad to crack down on suspected militant sanctuaries and take action against the Taliban leadership allegedly operating from Pakistan.

It certainly presents a very serious challenge to the Pakistani leadership, almost comparable to what it had faced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

That raises questions about Pakistan’s options and how our political and military leadership can deal with this serious situation. The prevailing political instability and absence of a chain of command has complicated our predicament.

It may be true that Pakistan is being used as a scapegoat for America’s failure to wind up the war, the longest it has ever fought. Yet the allegations of some Afghan insurgent groups taking sanctuary in our border areas cannot be refuted.

The fact that so many proscribed militant groups are operating with such impunity has weakened our case and made us extremely vulnerable to growing international pressure. We cannot hide behind a sense of victimhood.

It is not just about US pressure. It is imperative for us to clean up our home in our own national security interest.
The surge in militant violence and growing instability in Afghanistan threaten our security too. Indeed, America’s continuing reliance on the military solution and an ineffective, fragmented administration in Kabul has been the major cause of the deepening Afghan crisis.

Yet it is in our own interest that we continue to cooperate with Afghanistan and the international community to contain violence in the strife-torn country.

The writer is an author and journalist.


The Tribune – US judge orders release of immigration activist Ravi Ragbir

Washington DC-USA, 30 January 2018. A US judge has ordered immediate release of prominent Indian-descent immigration activist Ravi Ragbir and granted him a temporary reprieve from deportation to his native Trinidad and Tobago, saying his detention was unnecessarily cruel.

Ragbir, 43, was arrested on January 12 during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ordered immediate deportation, irking local community in New York.

In a seven-page decision, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest on Monday said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated Ragbir’s rights by denying him due process and “the freedom to say goodbye”.

Forrest said Ragbir’s sudden and “unnecessary detention” after living in the US “without incident, reporting as required to immigration authorities and building a home, a family, and a community was wrong”.

Forrest said Ragbir should have been given time to organise his affairs before being taken in custody.

“There is, and ought to be in this country, the freedom to say goodbye. That is, freedom to hug one’s spouse and children, the freedom to organise the myriad of human affairs that collect over time.”

“It ought not to be, and it has never before been, that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associated with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken away without notice from streets, home, and work.

And sent away,” Forrest said amidst cheers from the supporters of Ragbir who had gathered at the courthouse.

Ragbir arrived in the US from Trinidad and Tobago in 1991 on a visitor’s visa. He became a lawful permanent resident in 1994.

According to New York Immigration Coalition, Ragbir, a Brooklyn resident and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, has been under the threat of deportation for nearly a decade following a conviction for wire fraud in 2001.

He was placed into removal proceedings in 2006 and spent 22 months in immigration detention before being released in February 2008.

During immigration detention and since his release, Ragbir has devoted his life to the lives of immigrants, working tirelessly to end the use of immigration detention, stop deportations and secure relief for countless individuals.

Known as a fixture in the immigrant rights movement, Ragbir was awarded the 2017 Immigrant Excellence Award by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, given to those who show “deep commitment to the enhancement of their community”.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency called Ragbir “an aggravated felon” in reference to his wire fraud conviction and said it was “actively exploring” an appeal against the ruling. (PTI)

Wire Fraud: Financial fraud involving the use of telecommunications or information technology.