The Asian Age – In shadow of terror, Afghanistan celebrates Independence Day

Ghani welcomed dozens of Afghan officials for a morning ceremony at the presidential palace

Kabul, 20 August 2017. Afghan security forces were on high alert on Saturday as the war-weary country, reeling from a number of high-profile deadly attacks, marked its independence day with muted celebrations.

There was an increased police presence in the capital Kabul where President Ashraf Ghani hosted a private ceremony for Afghan dignitaries.

“All of our police units are on the highest state of alert and they are placed everywhere across the city,” Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid said.

“We have increased the number of police checkpoints in and around the diplomatic quarters (too),” he added, amid fears that the Taliban would mark the anniversary with a large-scale attack.

August 19 commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, which granted Afghanistan full independence from Britain, although the country was never part of the British empire, after three bloody wars.

While Afghanistan’s red, black and green tricolour flag adorned many Kabul streets, the day was largely going unobserved by ordinary Afghans, who are frustrated by the deteriorating security situation and the lack of progress by the US-led international coalition forces.

As in recent years there are no public ceremonies planned in the capital. The city has been on edge since a massive truck bomb ripped through its diplomatic quarter during morning rush hour on May 31, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians, in an unclaimed attack.

Taliban insurgents are currently at the peak of their summer fighting season and have launched several deadly assaults around the country in recent weeks.

Ghani welcomed dozens of Afghan officials for a morning ceremony at the presidential palace and laid a wreath at the independence minaret inside the defence ministry compound.

“A very happy Independence Day to everyone in AFG,” Ghani said on Twitter.

“This day was earned with lots of sacrifices. We must pay homage & celebrate this legacy.”

The Tribune – No grant, SGPC-run college won’t take Dalit students

Kulwinder Sandhu, Tribune News Service

Moga, 19 August 2017. At least 27 Dalit students have been denied admission in BA (final year) course by the SGPC-run Guru Nanak College here.

These students have failed to deposit their annual tuition fee because the state government has not transferred the post-matric scholarship amount into their accounts.

Moga SDM Charandeep Singh, who is inquiring into the complaint of the students, said a compromise was reached between the college authorities and the students in his presence on August 4, according to which the students would pay the fee in instalments of Rs 5,000 each.

However, the college has backed out, asking the students to pay the entire amount to seek admission.

Backed by the Punjab Students’ Union (PSU), the affected students have launched an agitation against the SGPC and the college.

District Magistrate Dilraj Singh Sandhawalia had asked the SDM to sort out the issue, but the college authorities were adamant and not willing to cooperate with the administration.

Mohan Singh Aulakh, district convener of the PSU, alleged the government had not released the scholarship to the affected students for the past over two years.

The students alleged that the college was demanding Rs 22,000 from them as annual tuition fee even though they were eligible under the post-matric scholarship scheme. “We belong to poor families and our parents can’t afford to pay the fee,” they said.

The SDM has asked the social welfare officer to look into the matter.

From Haarlem to Den Haag

Haarlem NS Station
15 July 2017


Doubledecker to Zandvoort aan Zee

Sprinter to Leiden Centraal

Intercity to Vlissingen
Ends at Rotterdam due to works

NS Sprinter EMU

17.20 Intercity to take me to Den Haag HS

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Times of India – Doklam standoff: Chinese clip mocks Sikhs, called racist

I P Singh

Jalandhar, 19 August 2017. Amid the Doklam stand-off on the Bhutanese border, the state owned Chinese news agency Xinhua has put out a three-minute video in which an actor mocks India by dressing up as a Sikh soldier.

The actor in a Sikh turban and a shabby beard clowns around on screen while the anchor attacks India in the clip titled “7 sins of India”.

The video has been uploaded on Xinhua’s site and Twitter handle at a time when India has posted burly Sikh and Jat soldiers at the Doklam tri-junction in a bid to intimidate Chinese soldiers.

The anchor in the clip starts by saying that it has been two months since Indian troops illegally crossed into China.
“The whole world is trying to wake India up but China has realized that it is impossible to awaken a guy who is pretending to be asleep,” she says and shows a man with the ill-fitting turban saying in a mock Indian accent: “Nobody’s blaming me because I’m asleep.” He then snores amid canned laughter.

UK-based Sikh Press Association called the clip, “blatant mockery of the Sikh identity”. UK-based Sikh Press Association said, “It is sad to see just how low Chinese media have stooped in using the Sikh identity as a pawn in their state propaganda against India.

Sikhs make up less than 2% of India’s population, so to use a mocked-up image of a Sikh as the face of propaganda targeted against India shows just how ill-informed Xinhua is.” Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh said, “It is racist and reflects poorly on the Chinese state-owned media. Despite the stand-off India should raise the issue with China.”

The anchor in the clip also calls Doklam undisputed Chinese territory and alleges that India is trampling on international law. She mockingly asks, “Didn’t your mama tell you never break the law?”

The clown also says, “He is building a path in his garden, I am in danger,” which is followed by another bout of laughter.The clip claims that India is holding a small neighbour like Bhutan to ransom in the name of protecting it.

The Hindu – No communication from Pakistan on ad-hoc judge for Jadhav case: MEA

New Delhi, 19 August 2017. The External Affairs Ministry on Friday said it has not received any communication from Pakistan about launch of a consultation process by it to nominate an ad-hoc judge for the Kulbhushan Jadhav case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“We have seen reports in the media about the issue. We have not been informed officially about this process by relevant authorities,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters, replying to a question on the issue.

According to a Pakistani media report, Islamabad has begun consultations over the nomination of an ad-hoc judge for the Jadhav case and that an ex-attorney general and a former Jordanian premier have emerged as the top contenders.

India had moved the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the death penalty handed down to Jadhav by a Pakistani military court. The ICJ had on May 18 restrained Pakistan from executing the death sentence.

During the tenure of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former Supreme Court judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday was approached, but he declined the nomination, the report by Express Tribune said.

Sources were quoted by the daily as saying that the Attorney General for Pakistan’s (AGP) office has recommended the names of senior lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan and former Jordanian prime minister Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Khasawneh served as an ICJ judge for over a decade, while Khan, a former Attorney General who is seen as the favourite for the job, also has experience in international arbitration cases, having represented eight different countries in international courts.

The Hindustan Times – Ahead of court verdict on dera chief, police in Sirsa ready with riot gear

Alerts have already been issued by Punjab and Haryana as the dera has following concentrated in the inter-state border districts of the two states, which have sought central forces from the Union home ministry.

Bhaskar Mukherjee and Richa Sharma

Hisar/Sirsa, 19 August 2017. A day after a special CBI court in Panchkula reserved its verdict in the rape trial of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, alias MSG, for August 25, the police in Haryana’s Sirsa, where the sect has its headquarters, held a security drill at the Police Lines on Friday to deal with any untoward incident in case of a verdict against the sect head.

Alerts have already been issued by Punjab and Haryana as the dera has following concentrated in the inter-state border districts of the two states, which have sought central forces from the Union home ministry.

Police in Panchkula, Mohali and Chandigarh have cancelled leave of the staff. The case goes back 15 years, and the allegations are that the dera head sexually exploited at least two female followers.

On Friday, deputy superintendent of police (DSP), headquarters, Vijay Kumar asked a Peace Committee formed by the Sirsa district administration to hold talks with the dera authorities. Riot gear was also distributed among police personnel.

The DSP said, “We have called in eight companies of the Haryana police from adjoining districts Fatehabad, Hisar, Jind and Bhiwani. If required, we will call paramilitary forces too”.

“We have also started training our women police force accordingly,” the DSP further said, adding, “Intelligence agencies are keeping a close eye on Dera Sacha Sauda followers and giving minute-to-minute details.

Meanwhile, superintendent of police (SP) Ashwin Shenvi, who was shifted from Sonepat to Sirsa, was to join duty by Friday evening. Ambala deputy commissioner Prabhjot Singh has also been transferred to Sirsa.

After the peace panel meet held by DSP Vijay at the sadar police station, he said, “The committee comprises elders, mediapersons, officials from the administration, and teachers.

The members have assured us that they will talk to the dera authorities and ask them to maintain law and order.” Sources said a meeting of the district administration and police officials, chaired by additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Munish Nagpal, was also conducted at the mini-secretariat.

In Hisar, SP Manisha Chaudhary and DC Nikhil Gajraj also conducted a meeting with officials; and police forces carried out a drill at the police lines.

On Thursday, thousands of dera followers had gathered near the Sirsa court complex, where Gurmeet Ram Rahim was supposed to appear before a CBI court through video-conferencing.

The dera head, however, did not appear before the court citing medical grounds. While talking to HT, a follower, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The sentiments of the followers are hurt. We will not tolerate anything against our pita-ji (father), our guru-ji!

However, we are sure nothing will happen to him, and justice will prevail.” Another said, “We are sure that maharaj-ji will get justice as all the charges of murder and rape levelled against him are baseless.”

When contacted, dera spokesperson Aditya Insan said, “Not even a single person from the dera management has issued any kind of directions to the followers.”

The dera head not only has criminal cases but has also has a festering run-in with Sikh radicals for having allegedly dressed up as the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, in 2007 among other instances considered blasphemous by a section of Sikhs. – Sikhs in Canada host successful leadership event

Balpreet Singh

Ottawa, 18 August 2017. The World Sikh Organization of Canada held its third annual Sikh Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI) in Ottawa this past weekend. After taking part in a rigorous application process, twenty Sikh youth between the ages of 18-25 were selected to take part in the program.

The attendees came from coast to coast, including Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. More than half of this year’s participants were Sikh women.

Participants gathered in Ottawa from August 11-14 to receive leadership training in emotional intelligence, advocacy, community building, and social justice. Attendees also brainstormed social initiatives for their communities, and created plans for their implementation.

On the first day, Puneet Mann, VP of Customer Experience at Scotiabank helped students understand and analyze different leadership styles. Workshops helped students develop their emotional intelligence and grow their self-awareness.

The second day of the program consisted of workshops and panel discussions featuring prominent Sikhs who are leaders in their fields.

The business panel composed of Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind Inc; Karan Walia, the co-founder and CEO of Cluep and Parveen Kaur, consultant for the Public and Professional Affairs Department at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, spoke to students about their experiences as successful Sikhs in the corporate world.

Bhupinder Singh Hundal, media consultant and commentator on Hockey Night in Canada-Punjabi Edition lead a workshop on media engagement.

The Sikh Youth Leadership Institute also hosted a multi-partisan political panel which included MP Ruby Sahota, Brampton City Councilor Gurpreet Dhillon and former Minister of State-Multiculturalism, Honarable Tim Uppal.

The event was concluded by a Sikhi and leadership workshop lead by WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh.

An attendee from Calgary, Simona Kaur said, “I honestly don’t know where to begin. This past week has been nothing short of life changing for me. Huge thank you to the organizers for putting together a seamless agenda for us…

The workshops turned out to be full of insights and wisdom drops and with a wonderful blend of Sikhi in them. Also, thank you for pushing the importance of powerful women in the community.”

WSO President, Mukhbir Singh said, “the Sikh Youth Leadership Institute has been one of our most successful initiatives and has resulted in the empowerment of young Sikhs from across Canada and has helped bring together a network of young activists who are making a difference in their communities.

We are proud of the work of our past years’ graduates and are look forward to the contributions of this years’ cohort.”

The WSO is a charity organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

The donations page for the WSO provides a wonderful way of supporting this high profile Sikh organization that requires much input from the Sikh community.

From Den Haag Centraal to Haarlem and back

Den Haag Centraal
Going to Haarlem
15 July 2017

RandstadRail TramTrain 

NS Doubledecker and RandstadRail TramTrain

Haarlem and Haarlem NS Station
15 July 2017

Meester Cornelisstraat, near Santpoortplein
My friends from my student days celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary

NS Station Haarlem – Kruisweg

NS Station Haarlem

NS Station Haarlem
Bay platforms

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Times of India – Doklam standoff fails to affect services at Shanghai gurdwara

Yudhvir Rana

19 August 2017. Amritsar: The Doklam standoff between India and China has failed to affect the only gurdwara in Shanghai, which continues to hold weekly darbar and perform other religious services as usual.

“There is no war mongering or even any such hype here among the locals. Whatever we hear is largely from the Indian media,” said Satbir Singh while speaking to TOI over phone from Shanghai on Friday.

Satbir has converted a portion of his house in Shanghai into a gurdwara, where saroop of Guru Granth Sahib is installed and a weekly darbar held. Devotees comprising Sikhs and Hindu, including Sindhis, come to the gurdwara frequently. According to Satbir, there are only eight Sikh families, besides Hindu and Sindhi, in Shanghai.

The other two gurdwaras in China are at Keqiao and Yiwu in Zhejiang province.

While denying that Indo-China standoff was a topic of discussion among locals, he said the Chinese locals had very cordial relations with the Indians in Shanghai. “Many a times, some of them even accompany their Hindu, Sikh or Sindhi friends to the gurdwara and feel blessed,” he said.

Satbir’s father had worked for about 30 years in China and shifted to Shanghai from Hong Kong about 12 years ago. On an average, the weekly gurdwara darbar has a gathering of around 60 people. “There are other people who visit the gurdwara daily,” he said.

Sushil Balani, who has business ties with China, said there was more of media hype than anything on ground. “Till now, business is as usual with China. All the transactions are normal, many businessmen are still in China and none of them have returned,” he said.

Dawn – This is very much Zia’s Pakistan, the most influential man after Jinnah

Sibtain Naqvi

Op/Ed, 18 August 2017. Nisid Hajari, in his Midnight’s Furies, writes that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was deeply resentful of the way Gandhi interspersed religion and politics, and is recorded by one colonial governor to have said that “it was a crime to mix up politics and religion the way he had done.”

Jinnah believed that this practice paves the way for religious chauvinism on all sides.

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan.

You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” he had guaranteed the people who were about to inherit a new homeland, in his presidential address to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi on 11 August, 1947.

Such ideals were the foundation laid down by the Father of the Nation. 70 years later, we find religion and politics inseparable. Today, as we scramble to find some semblance of evidence that we have progressed as a nation, we only pull the wool over our eyes.

The Pakistan of today is a country steeped in bigotry. We have a come a long way, but unfortunately not so much our pluralistic ideals. They have somehow been lost to time.

In today’s Pakistan, an octogenarian man not of the faith decreed to be the national religion, will be tortured if he does not accord our rituals the ‘proper respect’. A chipboard factory belonging to a community our nation has outcast will be torched and the places of worship of minorities attacked and looted.

Recently, a survey was conducted to commemorate 70 years of Pakistan and people from all parts of the country, from all walks of life were asked to name the person whom they considered to be the most influential Pakistani after Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

The nominees included politicians, past prime ministers, military dictators and others who have played a role in shaping this country. The results revealed that the majority of people voted for Edhi.

There is no doubt about Edhi’s contributions to Pakistan. For decades, he had been the succor for the destitute and marginalised. If the ranking was based on good deeds, Edhi should certainly rank at the top. His stature as one of the world’s greatest humanitarians stands uncontested.

However, and it pains me to say, influence is measured by lasting impact across society. This influence can be positive or negative.

An influential person does not necessarily have to be a saint, but one who has caused a seismic shift in the nation’s history and the lives of its people. He/she changes the way we think, act and behave.

In truth, how many people have been impacted by Edhi other than the ones who have received help through his foundation?

The latter owe their very lives to him but if you consider the 200 million who constitute this country, how many of them espouse Edhi’s values in their daily lives? In fact, his son Faisal Edhi publicly said that donations to the Edhi Foundation have decreased after his father’s death.

The poll results are an exercise in self-pleasure for those who voted, who hold the erroneous belief that Edhi is an active influence in the lives of Pakistanis and the institutions of this county. The truth is far starker.

This may surprise, amaze or dismay many, but the most influential Pakistani of the past 70 years is General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Political leaders exert overwhelming influence on society due to the nature of their positions. In his 11 years of rule, Zia not only wielded absolute power but also altered the political and societal fabric of the country. Consider the repercussions of his stay in office nearly 30 years after his death.

Let us start from the Constitutional amendments he introduced that toppled many governments. Article 58 2(b) of the 8th Amendment, introduced in 1985, was instrumental in removing Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo in 1988.

Later, Presidents Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari resorted to the Article to dismiss the governments of Benazir Bhutto (twice, in 1990 and 1996) and Nawaz Sharif in 1993. The Article was finally removed via the Thirteenth Amendment in 1997 by the second Nawaz Sharif government.

Then consider Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution that have been in the news for the past few weeks. Although part of the 1973 Constitution, Articles 62 and 63, in their original form, had not made it mandatory for a legislator to be Sadiq and Ameen.

Later, during Zia’s tenure, the two clauses were made part of the Articles and amended in 1985 by Item 16 of the Schedule, which gave the dictator further power to remove elected prime ministers. Zia could not put them to use, but for 32 years they have loomed dangerously over the political landscape.

Perhaps even more than the political arena, Zia’s influence permeates Pakistani society. He passed broad-ranging legislation as part of Pakistan’s ‘Islamisation’, effectively promoting a holier than thou culture that has eventually crystallised into religious intolerance, taking the country down the path of extremism.

Ian Talbot, in his book Pakistan, a Modern History writes, “Pakistan during the period 1977–1988… aspired to be an ideological state… the goal of an Islamic state was deemed to be its main basis”.

Zia’s policies led to Sharia benches and the Federal Sharia Court, and replacement of parts of the Pakistan Penal Code with the 1979 Hudood Ordinance, which particularly hampered women’s rights.

Under him, madrassas received state funding, most of them from the Deobandi and Wahabi school of thought. The 1979 Zakat Ordinance worsened sectarian relations.

From the way we dress, speak, and think, the Pakistani society of today bears little resemblance to the one in 1977 and Zia is the principle architect of this change.

It is a sign of Zia’s continuing legacy that an extremist party such as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat holds a provincial seat and groups like the Jamat ud Dawah see a chance at entering mainstream politics.

Zia was a political genius who did something none of his fellow military dictators could do: create a constituency. General Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf had similarly long tenures and for a while enjoyed popular support but could not sustain it.

Zia, through the societal changes and clever use of patronage, created the constituency that also served the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad and later inherited by the PML-N. The broad swathes of conservative Punjab that forms the bedrock of the PML-N and has voted for the party since the 1990s would have wholeheartedly voted for Zia as well.

Therefore, it stands to reason that had he not perished in an air crash, Zia could have relinquished his uniform if he wanted and still carried on successfully as a civilian politician.

Make no mistake, this is very much Zia’s Pakistan, not Edhi’s and not even Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s. The Quaid-e-Azam may have played a key role in creating the country but it is unrecognisable from the one he had envisioned. His policies of religious tolerance, welfare, and role of state institutions have been overturned.

A simple read through his speeches makes that clear.

Regarding the armed forces, he said, “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people. You do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted.” Military coups make a mockery of that statement.

Espousing religious harmony, rule of law and other virtues, Jinnah would have been sidelined by the state, much like how his sister was.

Let us not delude ourselves. Welcome to Zia-land.