Dawn – Suicide blast, clashes on first day of Ramazan kill 54 in Afghanistan

Kabul, 28 May 2017. A suspected suicide bomber killed as many as 18 people in Afghanistan on Saturday and fighting between militants and security forces left at least 36 people dead on the first day of Ramazan.

In eastern Khost province, a Taliban attacker detonated a car bomb near a football field that is close to a military base, officials said.

“The target was a public bus station which was hit by the bombing. The victims were in civilian clothes and it is difficult to verify their identities.”

But provincial police chief Faizullah Ghairat said members of the elite Khost Provincial Force (KPF), known to be paid and equipped by the American CIA, were the target of the attack.

“The bombing took place early morning when KPF members were heading to work,” Ghairat said. “But most of the victims are civilians.”

At a local hospital, doctors received at least 18 dead bodies and eight wounded people, said Gul Mohammaddin Mangal, head of the public health department in Khost. “The bodies are not recognizable and it is hard to say if they are civilians or security forces,” he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabih­ullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the Khost attack, saying it was aimed at members of the Afghan security forces.

A witness at the scene did not observe any military or police vehicles among those destroyed in the blast.

In the north-western province of Badghis, militants attacked security forces in Qadis district, sparking fighting that killed 22 insurgents, six security forces, and eight civilians, said Zahir Bahand a spokesman for the provincial governor.

The fighting also left 33 militants and 17 civilians wounded, he said.

In Nangarhar province on Friday, some residents of Achin district rebelled against fighters of the militant Islamic State group who have occupied much of that district, resulting in fighting that left 15 militants and six civilians dead, provincial governor Gulab Mangar said in a statement.

The KPF, estimated to have around 4,000 fighters, are believed to operate a shadow war against the Taliban in a province that borders Pakistan and are accused of torture and extrajudicial killings.

The brazen car attack, claimed by the Taliban on their website, comes just a day after at least 15 Afghan soldiers were killed when insurgents attacked their base in Kandahar, in the third major assault this week on the military in the southern province.

The attack in Shah Wali Kot district followed insurgent raids earlier this week on military bases in the same area and Maiwand district, bringing the death toll among Afghan troops in Kandahar to around 60.

The Western-backed Afghan government is battling both Taliban and IS militants around the country.

Taliban forces have increased their attacks in the weeks before Ramazan, with a string of strikes in Kandahar, Paktia, and Helmand, among other provinces. The battlefield losses mark a stinging blow for Nato-backed Afghan forces and have raised concerns about their capacity to beat back the resurgent Taliban.

Afghan forces are beset by unprecedented casualties and blamed for corruption, desertion and “ghost soldiers” who exist on the payroll but whose salaries are usurped by fraudulent commanders.

During another deadly Taliban attack on security outposts in southern Zabul province on Sunday, local officials made desperate calls to Afghan television stations to seek attention because they were unable to contact senior authorities for help.

The pleas for attention, a major embarrassment for the Western-backed government, highlighted the disarray in security ranks.


Dawn – Sikhs donate palanquin for holy book at museum

Shoaib Ahmed

Lahore, 25 May 2017. The Sikh community on Wednesday donated to the Lahore Museum a metallic palanquin with a wooden base for the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious book of the Sikhs, officials told Dawn.

Officials said 10 members of the Sikh Sangat donated the palanquin. The Guru Granth Sahib kept at the museum belonged to the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The community members performed a ritual while placing the holy book in the palanquin, which had been brought from Amritsar to be permanently placed at the museum.

The Sikh community members lauded the efforts of the museum administration for properly preserving heritage of this region, particularly of the Sikh community.

Lahore Museum Additional Director Naushaba Anjum told Dawn that the event went really well. The museum contains a rare collection of artefacts linked to the Sikh community, especially from the time of Ranjit Singh. These artefacts could not be found anywhere in the world, she claimed.

The palanquin was placed in the ongoing exhibition of Sikh artefacts, Naushaba said, adding that the museum was considering declaring the general gallery where the exhibition was taking place as the Sikh gallery.

Though the exhibition was to conclude on May 30, but after the donation of the palanquin it would remain on display in August too, she said.

The exhibition featured paintings, weapons, intricate woodwork among a host of other items.

The museum features a rich collection of Sikh artefacts, including gold, silver and copper coins, as well as Ranjit Singh’s gold medals, miniatures including portraits of Sikh spiritual and political figures, clothing, furniture from the royal court, royal decrees and Sikh holy books.

The Lahore Museum is the ‘wonderhouse’ that figures in ‘Kim’ and of which Rudyard Kipling’s father was the director. The last time I visited, the famous Zamzama gun on which Kim and his friends played was still to be seen outside the Museum


Dawn – My visit to Bulleh Shah’s tomb made me feel an otherworldly sense of peace

Sidra Zia

A few months ago, I had assigned a task to my students to bring in any poetic verse or prose in Punjabi, or just introduce themselves to the class in that language. The idea was simply to get them interested in a regional language, but it soon turned into a project where we worked on developing our own interpretations of Bulleh Shah’s poetry.

It was heartening to see how the teenagers in my class found the verses of a 500-year-old saint relatable with their 21st century life.

Coincidentally, my friend who is the founder of Saraab, an organisation formed to document the hidden variants of Pakistan, invited me on a trip to Kasur where she planned to film a documentary about cultural epicentres. I took this as the perfect opportunity for a field trip and asked my students to accompany us.

As the October day became sunnier, we grew increasingly impatient to begin our journey. As we parked at the corner of a busy street, we contemplated what we wanted to do next. Try the region’s fish which is famous across the province, or attend the hourly sessions of kafis (poems) being sung by mureeds (disciples) at Bulleh Shah’s shrine?

The kafis won, and we made our way through the traffic to the tomb of Hazrat Baba Bulleh Shah, arguably the greatest Punjabi poet and mystic this region has birthed to date.

Our journey began with a stopover at Baba Kamal Chishty’s shrine, where, according to the local folklore, if you could run up the steep stairs on the small hill while holding your breath, whatever wish you made at the top would come true.

After several failed attempts, we wandered through the shrine that was beautifully decorated with white and green tilework. As we weaved our way under the shade of old trees adorned with colourful strips of visitor’s wishes, we could hear the qawwals in the distance singing verses of devotion.

After another stopover at the small, but neatly maintained Kasur museum, it was time to pay a long overdue visit to the master of the poetic craft.

Bulleh Shah lived in the era of the great Sindhi poets Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast. Mir Taqi Mir, too, lived only a few days journey to the east.

The subcontinent spanned over a thousand miles, and Bulleh Shah’s voice was one of many that rose from the small towns of the Orient. Those voices still echo, from air-conditioned rooms in concrete jungles to radio sets held together by scotch tape under banyan trees.

A murshid (spiritual teacher) himself, Bulleh Shah is said to have studied in the famous mohallas of Lahore, with Kasur being his final resting place. The hunt for his tomb involved a drive through bazaars, followed by a short walk while navigating the great Kasuri markets, the scent of fried fish and rubber tyres in the air.

The tomb is a short five-minute walk from the parking lot. The enclosure holds a praying area, a white and green edifice reflective of Islamic architecture, in the courtyard of the shrine where I saw jewellery sellers and Islamic prayer books.

A short walk away is the entrance where local men, who were selling kasuri methi, made sure that we took our shoes off out of respect before going into the shrine. They had large stacks of pre-packed kasuri methi set at the entryway in case visitors wanted to buy them.

Two graves herald your entrance into the tiled courtyard, said to be the final resting place of Bulleh Shah’s greatest mureeds.

Across the graves in the middle of the large courtyard, for the hopeful, a tree sits next to the immediate sanctuary of Bulleh Shah, where strings and colourful strips of cloth are lifted by the afternoon breeze.

As we walked towards the domed structure, we couldn’t help but feel an otherworldly sense of peace. Peeking through the latticed stone, a hint of green and red stares back. It is the double coverlets on Bulleh Shah’s grave, green signifying his ceaseless attachment to Islam, and red a sign of undying strength.

Roses adorn the headstone, and on every side of the great murshid stand people with their hands raised in prayer, silently murmuring hesitant words on their lips. For a minute, it was easy to imagine Bulleh Shah, surrounded by equally devoted listeners, writing the kafis that are still sung.

There is visible life in the enclosure and an inherent sense of peace – not even the scorching sunlight could dull the energy which surrounded his resting place.

Eventually, we settled quietly in the courtyard, eager to hear the kafis of Bulleh Shah being sung by the famous group of qawwals at the shrine. As the men sat up and a crowd began to gather, we watched them transform into passionate devotees.

The men slowly built up a crescendo, the aged and the young alike, and their voices rose with the harmonium. It was only when Tere Ishq Nachaya broke my stupor, I realised how time had flown.

I felt my limbs move, reverently placing a small baqshish, my show of gratitude, where others had placed theirs already. We sat there for a long while, listening to their perfectly stylised rendition of Bulleh Shah’s kalams. It was as though we were in a reverie as the voices of the qawwals drifted across the courtyard.

Bulleh Shah was believed to possess healing powers, and people travelled far and wide to come to him for their ailments. Fighting against the prevalent issues of caste, creed, and familial honour in 18th century Punjab, he devoted his life to art, despite initial misgivings from close family members.

More of a nomadic observer than a fighter, he still managed to shake the status quo, spinning out poetic verses to rival several of his famous contemporaries.

As one of his famous verses says:

Oh Bulleh Shah, let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognises our caste
And where no one believes in us.

As we silently walked out of the courtyard, I couldn’t help but think of Bulleh Shah’s undying message and compassion that is still revered today.

To see the wonderful pictures that go with the article click on the link below:


If you are interested in this subject I would advice you to read :

Of Sacred and Secular Desire: An Anthology of Lyrical Writings from the Punjab

by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 15th 2012 by I. B. Tauris
(first published January 1st 2012)

Dawn – A Sufi, a Sikh and their message of love, A journey from Lahore to Amritsar

Taimur Shamil

This article was originally published on 2 February 2016.

Lahore, 20 May 2017. Sufi music and architecture has always fascinated me. Consequently, I have taken it upon myself to explore the tribal areas of North Pakistan and the remote areas of Sindh to learn as much as I can about the Sufi culture.

During recent travels, I happened upon the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir of the Qadariyyah Sufi order in Lahore.

The shrine is situated in what T S Eliot calls, “streets that follow like a tedious argument”.

The saint’s life history, however, contains clear messages of peace. His times were soon to be followed by cultural degradation and “insidious intents”.

Surrounded by a populated area, the shrine is home to many poor people to whom it provides free shelter, and food on Thursdays.

“Thursday evening is considered to be a Mubarak day for Sufis,” explained Ghulam Fareed, a Qawwal vocalist. Him, along with other Qawwals, have been regular visitors at this shrine. He sings here because he feels the act gives him a sense of belonging.

“This shrine has given us an identity.”

Singing qawwalis here also helps them make a living. After interacting with a few Qawwals, I realised that it’s not just mere appreciation and money; these Qawwals spoke with a sense of purpose as well.

To them, Sufi singing is a way to spread the message of unity and harmony, and they take immense pride in it.

Here, every Thursday, Qawwals sing in the courtyard of the shrine, while men and women clap and sway to the rhythm. Some men dance in ecstasy, some sing along, while others pay their tributes to the saint by bowing in front of his grave.

The air is filled with the mixed scent of roses and locally-made incense. Salvers of sweets and other food items are distributed among the crowd, both inside and outside of the shrine.

There are certain food items that are specific to the Sufi shrines in Lahore and can be found around Mian Mir; for instance, Qatlaammay (desi pizza) and Doodh Badam (milk with nuts).

On the outskirts of the shrine, vendors swarm the place. They sell dahi baray, chaat, sharbat and samosas to the visitors.

One of the samosa vendors, Akbar Shakir feels he doesn’t belong in the posh areas of Lahore, only here in the street next to the shrine.

“Quality is not ensured at these rairrhis but is it ensured at the hotels?” questioned Aleem Khan, a visitor to the darbar. “After seeing what’s going on in expensive food chains that people dine in, I think we are better off over here,” he added, pointing to the samosa carts close by.

Women constitute a huge number of devotees here.

“I was sick for the last two years,” said Sakeena, 32. “I went to many doctors and hakeems but no one knew what my problem was. I took medicines but nothing worked.

Then one day, my mother asked me to go to the shrine and pray for myself. I am much better since then. I believe that Awlia (friends of God) have the power to make things work for you,” she added thoughtfully.

Historically, I learned, Mughal royals and nobility would frequent the Shrine of Mian Mir religiously.

According to local and British historians, Dara Shikoh had given orders to build the mausoleum of Mian Mir Shikoh. He was a Mughal prince with Sufi and mystical inclinations. He strongly believed in social harmony and a peaceful co-existence.

Shikoh authored several books on Sufism, and wrote a treatise on Bhagavad Gita (a sacred book on Hinduism). His book Sakinatul Aulia is dedicated to the life and works of Mian Mir.

Shikoh’s intellectual pursuits made him strive for a heterogeneous culture and harmony in the subcontinent, an important ingredient that was much needed in the 17th century as much as it is required now.

Students of history, who are proponents of a pluralistic society, mourn the execution of this philosopher prince who was killed by his puritan brother Aurangzeb Alamgir.

Many modern-day historians are of the view that Shikoh was the bearer of the legacy of King Akbar whose stance was Sulh-e-Kul (Peace with all), a stance that Sufis, too, have taken.

On my most recent visit to the shrine, I met many Sikh yatris who had come to pay homage to this great saint. Many of them were from Pakistan, while some had come from India. Mostly Sikh Yatris come here during the birthday celebration of Guru Nanak.

What makes the Sikhs visit the Shrine of Mian Mir ? I was curious to know. I met a group of Sikhs and asked them.

“To us, Mian Mir Sahab is as divine as the saints of Sikhism,” replied Diljeet, who came to visit the shrine from Ferozepur, India.

Sufis and Gurus, and their message, transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. “They are the beacons of light,” added Gursevak, another devotee.

Mian Mir was an icon of unity, tolerance and love during and after the Mughal era. According to Sufi as well as Sikh traditions, Mian Mir laid the foundation of, what is now known as, the Golden Temple Amritsar, also known as Harmandr Sahib.

Mian Mir is said to have travelled from Lahore to Amritsar on the invitation of Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru of Sikhs, who asked Mian Mir for his blessings.

The story goes that Mian Mir was revered by Guru Arjun Dev. Both were divine figures of their respective religions, had mutual respect for each other and also had a similar notion: respect for humanity.

The goal of human life, according to Sufis, is to realise the divinity within; irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Harmandr Sahib, in this sense, is more of a cultural hub for the people of Punjab; it is a place where self-actualisation is promoted. It is also marked as a Gurdwara — literally meaning door of the Guru.

On these grounds. Mian Mir laid the foundation of a worship place of a nascent religion.

It is noteworthy that Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh faith, includes the kalaam (poetry/works) of renowned Sufis like Baba Fareed of the Chishtiyyah Sufi order.

And hence, aptly, the kalaam of popular Sikh poet Ravidas jee resounds at the Shrine of Mian Mir in Lahore today as a reminder of humanity and tolerance, echoed by this shrine’s existence.

In today’s era of chaos and war, such places of religious and ethnic harmony always manage to leave the heart at peace, if only for a little while.

Taimur Shamil is a broadcast journalist based in Islamabad. His areas of interest include religion, culture and politics.

To see the beautiful pictures that go with the article go to :


Dawn – ‘Pakistan didn’t fail’: 5 things you should know about ICJ’s decision on Jadhav

Taimur Malik

Karachi, 19 May 2017. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced its decision in relation to India’s Request for the Indication of Provisional Measures in connection with Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case (the “decision”) on May 18, 2017.

The 15 page decision has been met with strong reactions in both countries. Unfortunately, the debate on electronic media has been led by journalists, lawyers and politicians unfamiliar with the concepts of international law and the actual decision itself.

Therefore, it is important to highlight some key points:

India didn’t win, Pakistan didn’t fail

India didn’t win the case. Pakistan didn’t fail. The decision only relates to India’s request for provisional measures (which, by the way, doesn’t even include a request for granting consular access to Jadhav).

At this stage, it was easier and more likely for the ICJ to favour the Indian request as the threshold for assuming jurisdiction was not very high. Please see below paragraph 15 of the decision:

“15. The Court may indicate provisional measures only if the provisions relied on by the Applicant appear, prima facie, to afford a basis on which its jurisdiction could be founded, but need not satisfy itself in a definitive manner that it has jurisdiction as regards the merits of the case (see, for example, Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), Provisional Measures, Order of 19 April 2017, para. 17).”

Jadhav’s spy status will come under discussion

Pakistan hasn’t failed to convince the ICJ that Jadhav is a spy/terrorist as this is something that will be considered only at the merits stage of the case.

At this stage, ICJ wasn’t even looking to confirm whether the rights sought to be protected by India exist (i.e. consular access to an Indian citizen convicted of activities subversive to the national security of Pakistan).

In fact, it only had to decide whether such rights are plausible enough to be adjudicated upon at the merits stage of the case. Please see below paragraph 42 of the decision:

“42. At this stage of the proceedings, the Court is not called upon to determine definitively whether the rights which India wishes to see protected exist; it need only decide whether these rights are plausible (see above paragraph 35 and Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), Provisional Measures, Order of 19 April 2017, para. 64).”

ICJ yet to decide on consular access for Jadhav

ICJ has not determined as yet whether consular access must be granted to someone in Jadhav’s position. Pakistan has not even had the opportunity to plead the arguments in this respect and again this is something to be debated at the merits stage of the case. Please see below paragraph 43 of the decision:

“43. The rights to consular notification and access between a State and its nationals, as well as the obligations of the detaining State to inform without delay the person concerned of his rights with regard to consular assistance and to allow their exercise, are recognized in Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Vienna Convention.

Regarding Pakistan’s arguments that, first, Article 36 of the Vienna Convention does not apply to persons suspected of espionage or terrorism, and that, second, the rules applicable to the case at hand are provided in the 2008 Agreement, the Court considers that at this stage of the proceedings, where no legal analysis on these questions has been advanced by the Parties, these arguments do not provide a sufficient basis to exclude the plausibility of the rights claimed by India, for the same reasons provided above (see paragraphs 32-33).”

No decision on the death penalty

There has been no decision by the ICJ regarding Jadhav’s death penalty by the Pakistani Court. In fact, this point is not even under consideration and does not fall within the ICJ’s jurisdiction.

The dispute relates to whether consular access should have been granted by Pakistan and not whether the death penalty is lawful. Please see below paragraph 56 of the decision:

“56. The Court notes that the issues brought before it in this case do not concern the question whether a State is entitled to resort to the death penalty. As it has observed in the past, “the function of this Court is to resolve international legal disputes between States, inter alia when they arise out of the interpretation or application of international conventions, and not to act as a court of criminal appeal” (LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America), Provisional Measures, Order of 3 March 1999, I.C.J. Reports 1999 (I), p. 15, para. 25; Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America), Provisional Measures, Order of 5 February 2003, I.C.J. Reports 2003, p. 89, para. 48).”

Pakistan can still argue on jurisdiction

The decision in no way affects the rights of Pakistan to submit arguments in respect of the jurisdiction of the ICJ to deal with this case and in relation to the merits of the case itself.

Pakistan will be given ample opportunity to present its arguments in the next round. Please see below paragraph 60 of the decision:

“60. The decision given in the present proceedings in no way prejudges the question of the jurisdiction of the Court to deal with the merits of the case or any questions relating to the admissibility of the Application or to the merits themselves. It leaves unaffected the right of the Governments of India and Pakistan to submit arguments in respect of those questions.”

The legal team representing Pakistan in this case has also come under scrutiny in the media and an impression has been given that the lead counsel did not have relevant experience.

This is misleading. Khawar Qureshi QC is a leading member of the Bar of England and Wales who, 24 years ago, in 1993, was the youngest advocate to appear before the ICJ (representing Bosnia) and has taught Public International Law at King’s College London.

The junior counsel, Asad Rahim Khan, is an accomplished young lawyer currently working with the Attorney General’s Office who was called to the Bar of England and Wales, writes regularly for a prominent English newspaper and co-hosts a talk show on DawnNews.

They, and others supporting them, did not have the benefit of time available to the Indian team while preparing their arguments and performed well under a tight deadline.

One can expect to see a much stronger Pakistani legal team at the merits stage of the case.

It is also important to consider that the reasoning put forward by the ICJ potentially opens the doors for Pakistan to bring cases against India resulting from breaches of other international treaties.

Finally, it should be noted that Pakistan now has a right to appoint an Ad Hoc Judge of the ICJ for this specific case.

Media pundits have shown concern regarding the presence of an Indian Judge at the ICJ and the appointment of an Ad Hoc Judge by Pakistan should put to rest any concerns of the ICJ being influenced by one of its members.

However, Pakistan will have to select its nominee wisely. Possible options could include a retired Chief Justice of Pakistan (e.g. Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani), Pakistan’s leading international law expert, Ahmer Bilal Soofi (who is also an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee), or an international candidate such as Judge Bruno Simma (former Judge of the ICJ) who was appointed as an arbitrator by Pakistan in the Indus Water Kishenganga Arbitration.

Indeed, each potential nominee will have his areas of expertise and strength and the decision makers will need to consider carefully the skills that Pakistan would most value in its nominee for the position of the Ad Hoc Judge of the ICJ.

The case has just started and the best legal minds on both sides will be working hard to strengthen their country’s arguments in the next round. Neither side can claim a victory at this early stage.

The ICJ is the world’s most prestigious dispute resolution forum and we can expect important jurisprudence to result from the final outcome of this case.

The author is an international lawyer and former Executive Director of the Research Society of International Law (RSIL) Pakistan


Dawn – ‘A foreign policy disaster’: What Indian papers say about Modi’s boycott of OBOR

As dozens of world leaders arrived in Beijing to attend the “Belt and Road Forum” hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, India refused to send an official delegation to the summit.

India has maintained that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, is a violation of its sovereignty and therefore, cannot be accepted. India remains particularly incensed that projects under CPEC cut through the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Three major Indian news publications in their editorials or op/eds have largely criticised India’s refusal to attend the summit in Beijing, calling it a failure the country’s foreign policy and diplomacy.

Others maintained that India’s reservations regarding Beijing’s OBOR initiative are valid.

“India’s objection to CPEC is extremely valid, but the moot point remains that we were not able to carry any of the big powers on the vital question of Westphalian sovereignty.

“The One Belt One Road conference convened by the People’s Republic of China over the weekend to unveil and showcase the most ambitious connectivity project of modern times represents the grandest failure of Indian foreign policy and it’s quarantine into splendid isolation.

“By boycotting the summit rather than showing up and making our voice heard loud and clear in the comity of nations, India has in fact sent out a message that it will make proforma noise on this issue but actually acquiesce to the fait accompli.”

India cannot sit out: The Hindu

“[India’s] concerns are no doubt valid, and the refusal to join the [OBOR initiative] till China addresses the objection over Gilgit-Baltistan is understandable. The decision to not attend even as an observer, however, effectively closes the door for diplomacy.

It stands in contrast to countries such as the US and Japan, which are not a part of the B&RI but sent official delegations.”

“It must actively engage with China to have its particular grievances addressed, articulate its concerns to other partner countries in a more productive manner, and take a position as an Asian leader, not an outlier in the quest for more connectivity.”

India strikes out for its own interest: Times of India

India has undertaken an uncharacteristically bold foreign policy move by refusing to participate in the OBOR summit in Beijing, meant to be China’s grand coming out globalisation party.

It may, in fact, be salient for New Delhi and MEA to study Chinese negotiation technique over the last three or four decades and imbibe some of it, especially when it comes to negotiating with Beijing itself.”

India has its reasons to boycott China’s Belt Road initiative – Hindustan Times

“India has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s continent-spanning infrastructure project. The reasons for New Delhi’s scepticism about the Belt-Road Initiative may not seem evident. They become clear, however, when seen through the prism of geopolitics.

It is increasingly difficult to buy Beijing’s arguments that their plan to splash a few trillion dollars around the world is a benign gift to the world.

In any case, India has never said it would try to undermine or block Chinese projects in other countries, merely that it would not be signing up for the initiative. It remains an open question why Beijing is so insistent that India endorse the BRI, especially given that it has seen fit to turn against New Delhi in almost every other international fora including the Nuclear Suppliers Group.”

The Business Standard took a similar positions, saying India’s caution on OBOR is well founded.

“India should be cautious about participating in other components of the OBOR as well,” the publication’s editorial reads.


Dawn – Pakistan tells ICJ Jadhav confessed he is an Indian spy

UN’s top court says it will publicly deliver decision on whether to grant an emergency stay of execution ‘as soon as possible’

The Hague (Den Haag), 16 May 2017. Pakistan on Monday told the UN’s top court that an Indian national arrested on its soil had confessed to having been sent by Delhi to “wage terror” on innocent civilians and its infrastructure after India attempted to save the life of Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Mohammad Faisal, from the foreign affairs ministry, said the tribunal had been shown a video of the confession which was available online “for viewers to decide for themselves whether commander Jadhav is confessing voluntarily”.

Mr Faisal also showed the International Court of Justice (ICJ) an image of a passport found in Jadhav’s possession bearing a different and Muslim name Hussein Mubarak Patel.

“India has been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to provide an explanation for this passport which is the most obvious indication of covert and illegal activity,” he said.

Mr Faisal told judges that instead of imposing emergency measures, they could schedule a hearing on the merits of the case within six weeks.

India has denied however Jadhav was a spy, and last week lodged a protest at the ICJ accusing Pakistan of “egregious violations of the Vienna convention”.

Jadhav was arrested in Balochistan in March 2016 and in April this year, a military court sentenced him to death. Pakistan has said the conviction and sentence remain open to appeal.

“India believes that the farcical nature of the proceedings and unjust trial by a Pakistan military court… has led to a serious miscarriage of justice,” said Deepak Mittal, an official at India’s external affairs ministry.

The case is likely to take months or years to resolve, so India is asking the ICJ immediately order Pakistan to “take all measures necessary” to prevent Jadhav’s execution pending the final outcome.

The court’s president already has written to Pakistan, urging it to take no action that could affect the hearing of the Indian request to prevent the death sentence.

Pakistani counsel Khawar Qureshi informed the court that India had concealed facts during the hearing in an attempt to secure the stay order against the death sentence awarded to Jadhav for carrying out subversive acts in Pakistan.

He said the court was not apprised that Jadhav was arrested in Balochistan and that he possessed double passports and birth certificates.

He argued that every country had undeniable right to punish the terrorists and the ICJ could not intervene in criminal cases.

Mr Qureshi said the Indian application for stay order was full of errors and distorted facts, besides hiding information and proofs shared with India on Jadhav’s arrest.

He termed the Indian claim that it was denied consular access baseless.

The counsel maintained the case related to the sovereignty of Pakistan and thus did not fall in the purview of the ICJ.

Pleading the court to reject the appeal, Khawar Qureshi said under the Vienna Convention, the jurisdiction of the ICJ was limited.

India claims Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran, where he was carrying on business after retiring from service.

But Khawar Qureshi shot back that Jadhav “is a terrorist” and New Delhi’s story was “far-fetched at best”.

“India invoked the jurisdiction of this court improperly,” he said. “This court exists to ensure that states engage in peaceful resolution of disputes. This court does not exist for time-wasting and political grandstanding.”

ICJ president Ronny Abraham said the tribunal would publicly deliver its decision on whether to grant an emergency stay of execution “as soon as possible”.

New Delhi ultimately wants the ICJ to order Islamabad to annul the sentence.

It also wants the ICJ to declare that the Pakistani military court had violated the Vienna Convention by imposing a death sentence on Jadhav and broke human rights laws.

Indian claims

Mr Mittal insisted Pakistan had failed to respond to Indian demands for information about the case, snubbing requests for documents including the charge sheet, and had failed to provide Jadhav with consular access.

Islamabad has also not responded to a visa application by Jadhav’s parents seeking to travel to Pakistan to visit their son.

Jadhav “has been denied the right to be defended by a legal counsel of his choice,” Mr Mittal said, alleging that a confession was forced out of him. “All that we know is what we have seen in the media in Pakistan.”

Khawar Qureshi told the court that a 2008 agreement between Islamabad and Delhi allowed either country to decide on consular access in cases involving “political or security” issues.


Dawn – Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari slams ‘ridiculous’ bill forbidding public eating, drinking in Ramazan

Karachi, 13 May 2017. Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari has severely criticised the Ehtram-e-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill which prohibits eating and drinking in public during the month of Ramazan.

In a tweet, the daughter of former president Asif Ali Zardari said, “People are going to die from heat stroke and dehydration with this ridiculous law. Not everyone is able. This is not Islam.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Standing committee on Religious Affairs unanimously approved the Ehteram-e-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill, 2017 which seeks to punish hotel owners violating the law with fines ranging from Rs500 to Rs25,000.

Additionally, the bill also imposes a fine of Rs500 and prison sentence of up to three months for people seen smoking or eating in public during the holy month.

After receiving mixed reviews from users on the social media platform, Bakhtawar elaborated her initial tweet on the bill by saying that “we are more than capable of resisting temptation and keeping our fasts.”

The oldest daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto insisted that the “law” was outrageous as it failed to consider that not everyone will be fasting in the month of Ramazan.

“Not everyone in Pakistan will be fasting ─ Children in school, the elderly, people with medical issues ─ Should we arrest them for drinking water?” Bakhtawar highlighted in her tweet.

Under the Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, 1981, it is illegal for Muslims to eat or drink in public during daylight hours in Ramazan, though the heatstroke crisis prompted some clerics to advise people they should stop fasting if their health is at risk.

Responding to a twitter user’s retweet, Bakhtawar questioned the presence of harsh punishments in Islamic law for those who eat and drink in Ramazan.

Bakhtawar, along with her sister Aseefa, has been outspoken on twitter, often taking strong stances on profound issues. Recently, Aseefa asked the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah to apologise for his insensitive remarks against female parliamentarians.

“If parliament is a model of our society and if our parliament continues to make derogatory remarks against women, it reflects on us,” she tweeted.


Dawn – Jindal visit termed part of back-channel diplomacy

Monitoring Desk

Karach, 12 May 2017. The civilian leadership of the country has informed senior military officials that a recent meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal, a close friend of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was part of back-channel diplomacy between the governments of Pakistan and India, BBC Urdu said in a report on Thursday.

Away from the media glare, the meeting between Mr Sharif and Mr Jindal, who visited the country with his family members and some friends, was held at the former’s private residence in Murree last month.

The meeting fuelled wild speculations after the media broke the news, prompting Maryam Nawaz to tweet that “Mr Jindal is an old friend of the prime minister. Nothing ‘secret’ about the meeting and [it] should not be blown out of proportion”.

The Foreign Office spokesman had claimed his office was unaware about any such meeting.

Quoting important official sources, the BBC Urdu report said that during a recent meeting the prime minister took Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa into confidence about his meeting with Mr Jindal.

Sharif takes army chief into confidence over his meeting with Indian steel magnate

According to these sources, Mr Sharif told the military leadership that Mr Jindal had been sent by Indian authorities and that the meeting was an initiative to reduce tension between the two countries.

The report said the military leadership had also taken its senior officers into confidence about the prime minister’s meeting with Mr Jindal. It said that General Bajwa had informed army’s senior officers that the meeting was part of back-channel diplomacy between the two countries.

The Sharif-Jindal meeting was held at a time when relations between Pakistan and India were very strained due to a series of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.

It had triggered intense speculation with some analysts suggesting it could be the precursor to a possible meeting between prime ministers of the two countries in the near future.

According to the report, a close aide of Mr Sharif told the BBC Urdu that the prime minister did not share with his party members the details of his meeting with Mr Jindal.

The prime minister just informed them that the Indian steel magnate was making effort for reducing tension between the two countries and that he had taken the military leadership into confidence about his meeting with him.

The report said the military leadership made it clear that the issue of convicted Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav, could not be discussed during any back-channel or diplomatic talks with India.

There was no official comment by the government to confirm or deny the BBC report.

Pakistan : The army instructs the government what to do – The army takes over tasks of the judiciary
Man in blue


Dawn – Pakistan, Afghan officials conduct joint geographical survey in Chaman

Syed Ali Shah

Chaman-Balochistan-Pakistan, 9 May 2017. A team of Pakistani and Afghan officials conducted a joint geographical survey in Chaman’s ‘controversial’ Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir villages and submitted a report to Kabul and Islamabad on Tuesday, as both countries seek to ‘remove discrepancies’ in Afghan maps.

Census activities have also resumed in Chaman amid tight security, days after a cross-border attack on census staff and security personnel by Afghan forces in Chaman left at least 12 people dead and 40 others injured despite Kabul being informed of the exercise in advance.

During a previous hotline contact, the Afghan director general of military operations had admitted his side’s mistake in identifying the boundary in the area and acknowledged that the international border lies between the villages and not at a ditch, as perceived by them, Inter-Services Public Relations had said earlier.

Earlier, official sources claimed that some differences were found between “our maps and the ones presented by the Afghan army” during a meeting.

Both sides subsequently agreed to conduct a survey of the ‘controversial’ Killi Jahangir and Killi Luqman villages after Pakistani and Afghan experts briefed the meeting on the matter.

Military officials agreed that Google Maps would also be considered while conducting the survey.

The Friendship Gate at Chaman, however, remained closed, and at least 15,000 people from the affected villages have moved to Chaman town, Qila Abdullah, Quetta and other places since the attack by Afghan forces on 5 May.

Later in the day, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz met Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal to discuss the issues Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing and the attack by Afghan border forces in Chaman.

Border opened for ailing Afghans to return

Authorities have made an exception for ailing Afghans, allowing them to leave and return home through the Chaman border crossing, a government official said.

Local official Qaiser Khan said the border will remain closed for everyone except sick Afghan nationals.

With additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui in Islamabad

Pakistan has border issues with India, Afghanistan and Iran !