The Express Tribune – Sikh community seeks representation in assemblies

Our Correspondent

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 27 May 2019. The Sikh community of Sindh sought representation in the assemblies on Saturday evening and demanded a piece of land for construction of a large Gurdwara in one of the posh areas of the metropolis like Defence Housing Authority, Clifton or Saddar cantonment from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

These demands were presented before the provincial minister for minority affairs, Hari Ram Kishori Lal, who was the chief guest at a 60 kV generator installation ceremony in Guru Nanak Darbar, on the premises of Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Sindh minority affairs department funded the purchase of the generator.

The Sikh family with a heart of gold

While talking to the media, Lal said that the properties belonging to minority communities had been occupied and large buildings had been erected on the places of worship of Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and other non-Muslims. He said that these properties had been placed under the control of Evacuee Trust Property Board which failed to manage them properly, resulting in their dilapidated condition.

He added that renovation work started by the Sindh government in Sadh Belo Temple in Sukkur could not be completed despite the passage of 10 years due to hurdles created by the Evacuee Trust Property Board.

He said that the Evacuee Trust is a provincial subject now, but added that the federal government was still reluctant to hand over its control to the provinces despite repeated reminders by the Sindh government at different forums.

Government working to develop Buddhist trail: PTDC chairman

He said that they had decided to set up the Sindh Evacuee Trust Board and its draft has been recently approved by the Sindh cabinet and would be presented in the provincial assembly for final nod very soon.

After its approval, the Sindh government will take over all the evacuee properties located in Sindh. He added that Sindh was the only province in Pakistan where a minority affairs department existed and its credit went to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s farsighted vision who in 1993 felt the need for a separate body to focus on the welfare and protection of minorities.

He said that PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was carrying forward the legacy of his mother and taking a keen interest in issues of minorities.

He said that on the directives of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, a competent team has been formed at the minority affairs department with Imtiaz Ali Shah as secretary and Director Mushtaq Soomro to transform the department.

Lal said that it was unfair to call Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and others as minorities as these communities have been residing in this part of the world for centuries.

He announced that an ambulance and bus for Guru Nanak Darbar will be provided in the next financial year. He also assured the Sikh community of every possible support for the construction of Gurdwara in one of the posh localities of Karachi.

Earlier, the patron-in-chief, Sardar Ramesh Singh, had thanked the provincial minister for providing the generator and added that no other party in the country matched the efforts of PPP with regards to the minorities.

President of the managing committee of the darbar, Suresh Peswani, Vice President Jawahir Lal, General Secretary Kailash Kumar, Surjeet Kumar and Nanak Ram attended the ceremony.

Dawn – Spirituality encourages people to return to innocence, says shrine custodian

Peerzada Salman

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 09 May 2019. Spirituality is about humanity. It is not confined to one religion. We are cutting trees, killing animals, polluting the environment and indulging in acts of terrorism. We need to change all of that, and in order for that to be achieved the message of Sufi saints must be understood.

This was eloquently put by Syed Waqar Husain Shah Latifi, the gaddi nasheen of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, while answering a question asked by Ghazala Rahman at Szabist on Tuesday.

The first question that Ms Rahman put to Mr Shah was about the philosophy of Sindh. He said we all are connected to Sindh, the land of Sufi saints. It is the land of love, connectivity and ownership. We need to own everything, the sand dunes, the trees, the birds, the people etc. Whatever is created by God should be owned by us and we should respect it.

That’s the real philosophy of Sindh. This connectivity is the base which lies in our soul. The Sufi saints (Data Sahib, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Shah Latif) have purified this land, which is why the country is called Pakistan. The real introduction of Sindh is: we are the people of love.

Shah Latif 350 years ago dropped the idea of a global village, which means no matter what religion you belong to, the world is a village for all. Those who love one another are citizens of the village.

The second question that Mr Shah responded to was about the symbolic use of water, specifically the Indus River, in Shah Latif’s poetry. He said being the custodian of the shrine is a big responsibility.

Unfortunately, the government is not supporting the philosophy of Sufism and spirituality. They are still confused that why we have extremism, karo kari and targeted killings in Sindh, the land of peace. It is because we have forgotten the message of Sufi saints.

‘If you have tears in your eyes for somebody else, it means you are alive’

Mr Shah, then replying to the query about water, said Shah Latif in one of his prayers connects the prosperity of Sindh to the whole world. Today when we see CPEC around us, it is all happening through Sindh and Pakistan, which implies prosperity is coming through Sindh and the seas. The second thing that the world needs to learn from us is the message of peace.

After 9/11, the whole world was confused about how to control extremist elements. Pakistan and Sindh are the core areas of peace. The light of inner peace in Sindh should be transferred to the whole world. This is what Shah Latif said in his prayers 350 years back: Dost mitha dildaar, aalam sub abaad karein. Now people are getting it because after the attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, everyone is talking about Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia is a reaction to the action that was 9/11.” Both extremism and Islamophobia have one solution: spirituality. “Spirituality cannot be confined to one religion, it is confined to humanity. As humans we must respect one another. The culture we have developed, of felling trees, killing animals, polluting the environment, should be changed. And how we can change that should be learned from the spiritual saints.”

Mr Shah said we should respect people from every religion, caste and creed because they are the creatures of God. So the message of spirituality takes you to one Creator.

“Spirituality encourages you to return to your innocence. When you are a child you have no biases, but as you grow older, you develop biased concepts. If you return to innocence and become a child from the inside, then you will realise there’s nothing to hate.”

On the subject of inclusivity, Mr Shah shared a very interesting personal thing. He said when he became the wali ahd of the sajjada nasheen, they had a function on Shah Latif’s birthday. The day was tiring and after the event he was trying to get a good sleep. At 2am he received a call from someone. He didn’t pick it up but when the phone kept ringing he answered it.

The man at the other end said his five-year-old daughter had drowned in a lake, to which he (Shah) replied what he could do about it. The man said he just wanted Shah to pray that the body of his daughter was recovered. This brought tears to his eyes and changed his life. “If you have tears in your eyes for somebody else, it means you are alive.”

Mr Shah said when Pakistan came into being the shrines were controlled, and are still controlled, by the Auqaf department. They’re spending money against the philosophy of the shrines.

Mr Shah then shed light on various steps that he took at the shrine to make it more inclusive for all, including people of other faiths.

The programme was organised by the Sindh Abhyas Academy as part of the academy’s lecture series.

Dawn – Karachi as an ATM

Lahore has taken over Karachi’s mantle as Pakistan’s premier city.

Irfan Husain

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 06 April 2019. Driving to the French Beach the other day, I was reminded of just how ugly Karachi has become over the years: piles of garbage lined the rutted road, and shoddy houses were everywhere.

Before this brief excursion, I flew to Lahore for a week and was struck again and again by the gulf that has grown between the two cities. No rubbish was visible, and growth was planned. The new ring road allowed traffic to flow smoothly, and the cops were surprisingly efficient.

I recall that in my first stint in Lahore in the late 1960s after becoming a civil servant, those of us from Karachi used to look down on Lahore as a provincial hick town. Our new Lahori friends considered Karachi a swinging metropolis, far ahead of their sleepy city.

That was then: it’s a whole different story now. Karachi was dragged down by urban terrorism initiated by the militant arm of the MQM from the mid-1980s onwards. It has only just halted its death spiral a few years ago, when Nawaz Sharif cracked down on the thugs who had taken over the city.

But the gang violence, terrorism and protection rackets that brought Karachi to its knees have taken a heavy toll. There has been little fresh investment, and many industries have moved to Punjab. Nevertheless, people from across the country have continued to pour in, searching for jobs.

The result is an unplanned urban eyesore with around 21 million people competing for jobs and scarce resources like water, transport and electricity.

The mess has been made worse by the wrangling between the PPP and the MQM. While the former rules Sindh, the latter has the majority of councillors in the local government. However, the PPP has been reluctant to transfer funds to the city government, and the result is visible in the form of piles of garbage all over the city.

I suppose it would be too much to expect the two parties to work out a modus vivendi that would bring some relief to the beleaguered inhabitants of Karachi. No wonder both parties fared so poorly in the last elections.

As Karachi has declined, Lahore has taken over its mantle as the country’s premier city. Going there now from Karachi is like visiting a foreign country. True, successive governments in Punjab have focused on the more exclusive areas of Lahore, and the recent desecration of the city’s priceless cultural heritage has been little short of criminal.
But development has filtered across the city and the province to varying degrees.

Whatever the truth about the allegations against Shahbaz Sharif, the fact is that he has done a great job in pushing Punjab’s progress. I met the head of the Department of International Aid, Britain’s aid agency, in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago.

He was then based in Lahore, and said Punjab was the best province in Pakistan for making good use of British aid.

Sindh, on the other hand, has suffered under a kleptocracy that has treated Karachi as its personal ATM. While Punjab’s ruling elite has taken pride in improving Lahore, our local and provincial governments have both milked Karachi dry.

Land grabs are common, and most attempts at changing things for the better have been led by individuals and NGOs.

I met a civil servant about three years ago who had served in both Punjab and Sindh as a deputy commissioner, and asked him about his experience in both provinces. “Saeen,” he replied.

“It was a tough job in Punjab because the private secretary to the chief minister used to call all DCs on their landlines at 8 am. In Sindh, nobody bothered when I turned up to work.”

This difference in attitude towards governance explains the gulf that has opened up between Punjab and Sindh. People who have driven from Karachi to Lahore speak of the sudden improvement in the quality of the roads as they cross over the provincial border from Sindh into Punjab.

None of this is intended to suggest that Punjab has become a land of milk and honey overnight. But you get a sense that, until recently, at least, there was an authority driving change. In Sindh, there seems little desire for improvement as the rulers here are just too busy making money.

One thing to remember is that Lahore had a huge advantage over Karachi due to its rich heritage of Mughal and colonial buildings and gardens. Karachi, by contrast, was an insignificant port city that had a few imposing colonial buildings, but little else.

After Partition, it was overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of refugees; and this flood has continued as people from other provinces have flocked here to find work.

Given its limited resources, it is no wonder it has been unable to cope. But this should not be used as an excuse for the loot and plunder that has been going on.

Dawn – Bilawal’s two-fold challenge

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari seems to be the man of the moment, these days.

Arifa Noor

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 02 April 2019. With the PTI in power and the Sharif family in a mood for quiet reconciliation, only BBZ seems to be within reach of the coveted spot of ‘man of the opposition’. Indeed, there is no one else who can compete with him to fill the space once dominated by Imran Khan.

He is there to speak eloquently in parliament (and outperforms the leader of the opposition whose speaking skills are not much to write home about after all these years in politics); he sounds convincing in his interviews to foreign journalists; and his political legacy is enough for many to vouch for a rosy future for him.

And above all, his recent fiery incarnation which culminated in his train march from Karachi to Larkana seems to lend more credence to this idea. For many, he has already become an eloquent anti-establishment politician, following in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather.

But is opposition politics simply about filling the airwaves at a time when no one else is? Isn’t that what Imran Khan did after the 2013 elections? While this may be true, there is more to the matter, in the particular context of the PPP. And as the head and heir of the party, Bilawal needs to pay attention to the challenges facing him.

The PPP’s main challenge at the moment is its growing irrelevance in Punjab. Once a party which forced the military establishment to put together an alliance to stop it from sweeping the province in 1988, today the PPP has been reduced to a force which cannot even ensure the third place for itself in many electoral contests in Punjab.

The party may claim this is because of the uneven playing field and the rigging, which, of course, has been the excuse for any and every party’s perceived or real defeat. But there is also the largely prevailing perception that the party is corrupt and doesn’t ‘deliver’.

In comparison to the PML-N, which is seen to do so, Shahbaz Sharif’s slogan of ‘kaam ko izzat do’ resonates with its voters, the PPP is not seen to be a party that is capable of traditional governance.

For example, for Punjab, it is the party which gifted the province long, harsh hours of load-shedding, while the PML-N reduced the long hours to shorter, bearable ones.

And this perception has simply worsened since Asif Ali Zardari took over the party. He is simply not acceptable to the voter in the land of the five rivers. Many around BBZ realised this, and not just the ones from Punjab, as many assumed.

For why else were there leaks (deliberate or otherwise) in the earlier years about BBZ and Zardari not getting along. In 2013 came the story that the son left the country after arguing about tickets with his dad.

Some years later, he missed his mother’s death anniversary, and it was reported once again that it was because he had fought with his father over party matters (this is around the time Zardari called him immature publicly).

And during the father’s absence from the country, PPP leaders spoke (exasperatedly) of how the aunt kept a close eye on BBZ (implying that she did so at the behest of the father, who apparently was not entirely sure of his son).

In addition, an effort was also made to keep the father away when rallies were held to shore up support, especially during election time.

(That this was of utmost importance in Punjab was also obvious from the PPP leadership in the province, which was more vocal than their counterparts in Sindh that Zardari should abdicate in favour of BBZ.)

In other words, Bilawal faced two challenges, to emerge as a leader, but also one who was completely different from his father.

But the fake accounts case has shattered this hope of the two being two different brands. The case threatens not just Asif Ali Zardari, but also the government of Sindh. The trail from the accounts allegedly leads to government officials, right up to the chief minister of Sindh. And a jittery PPP has brought out its only blazing gun, BBZ.

He sits next to his chief ministers (past and present) to attack the accountability process and make cracks about militants being given an NRO.

He threatens (or did he only hint) to bring down the government with a long march and he snipes at the ‘selected’ prime minister. And all of these issues were highlighted more than once during the train march.

He may have exercised the Bhutto charisma and shown his mettle at public speaking, but in the process, his attacks on accountability and the fake accounts case are simply bringing him closer to his father in the public perception.

In recent days, no one has been able to argue that Benazir Bhutto’s son and Asif Ali Zardari are two different people with a different view and style of politics.

Perhaps, he feels he has no choice left. The PPP has little in its basket apart from Sindh and the cases now pose a threat to this. Perhaps Bilawal now has no choice but to defend the party, its government and his father.

This perhaps may not mean much in Sindh, where observers point out BBZ has always been seen as someone closely involved with the running of the province. But in Punjab, this can and will have implications in the long run.

The revival of the party, which was not easy to begin with, will be even more difficult because BBZ is now defending the party against corruption.

The voter in Punjab will find it that much harder to believe in BBZ as a harbinger of change. Did those who are pushing the accountability campaign ever realise that this could be a major fallout of the fake accounts case? Perhaps we will never know.

The Asian Age – ‘Not a sign of weakness’: Pakistan Army chief on Imran Khan’s India offer

Army Chief said peace benefits everyone and it is time to fight disease, poverty and illiteracy instead of fighting against each other.

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 23 December 2018. Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has backed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s peace initiatives, saying the new government has extended a hand of peace and friendship towards India with utmost sincerity but it should not be taken as Islamabad’s weakness.

Addressing the passing out parade of Midshipmen and Short Service Course at the Naval Academy in Karachi on Saturday, Bajwa said that Pakistan was “a peace loving country and believes in peace”.

Lauding the efforts of Prime Minister Khan’s government to achieve peace between Pakistan and India, the army chief said peace benefits everyone and it is time to fight disease, poverty and illiteracy instead of fighting against each other.

“Our new government has extended a hand of peace and friendship towards India with utmost sincerity but it should not be taken as our weakness,” Bajwa said.

The army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 71 years, has always wielded considerable power in the matters of foreign policy.

“Wars bring death, destruction and misery for the people. Ultimately all issues are resolved on the table through negotiations that is why we are trying very hard to help bring a lasting peace in Afghanistan by supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace plan,” Bajwa said.

He also warned that Pakistan is yet to get out from terrorism or sabotage phase of an unannounced war against it.

“Like the terrorists before; the protagonists of the new threats are at times, our own people. Mostly misguided by ambitions, blinded by hate, ethnicity or religion or simply overawed by social media onslaught, some of our own boys and girls readily fall victim to such dangerous or hostile narratives,” Bajwa said.

Referring to hybrid warfare, the army chief said information and modern technology has changed the nature of warfare now being waged and has tilted the balance in favour of those nations that have embraced the change readily.

“But frankly speaking, even that will not be sufficient as the ever-increasing threat of hybrid war, to which we are subjected to, will need a totally new approach and change of traditional mindset,” he said.

The News – Grieving mother urges govt to bring home jailed son from India

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 12 January 2019. A mother has put forth an appeal before the government of Pakistan to bring back her son who has been behind bars in India since over a decade over fake cases.

Inhabitant of the North Nazimabad area of the metropolis, Zubaida Khanum revealed to Geo News that her son Muhammad Fahad was held by authorities across the border over fake cases upon his visit in 2006 to meet his grandmother.

Moreover, Khanum protested that authorities in Pakistan had put no serious determinations in bringing her son back home in spite of several charges on Fahad getting dropped over the lack of evidence.

It was further revealed that Fahad is presently tangled in one case only, however due to the police officer who filed the case, failing to appear before the court, the unlawful sentence is being elongated.

“I want the government of Pakistan to launch efforts to free Fahad. It will be 13 years since he was given jail sentence. It has been long, I want to see him now,” she had stated.

The News – Unchecked rise in Pakistan’s population is a looming disaster: PMA

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 06 January 2019. The Pakistan Medical Association has voiced its concern at the rapid increase of population in Pakistan, calling it a looming disaster.

In a press statement issued on Sunday, PMA said the birth of 15,000 babies in Pakistan on the 1st day of 2019 is an alarming.

PMA thinks that it is a distressing situation as at the moment 60% of the National Population stands below the age of 25 yrs; 25 million children are not going to school and 90% Population is not being provided with clean drinking water. Malnutrition is another big issue and food scarcity is a big problem.

PMA believes that the unchecked rise in the population is a looming disaster, and concrete steps should be taken to implement family planning and make people friendly economic policies to overcome these difficulties and save the coming generations.

This proves that Pakistan is one the fastest growing Population in the World, at the moment more than 200 million and in years to come the country will be the fourth most populous in the world.

Dawn – Sheikh Rashid inaugurates Rahman Baba Express offering reduced Karachi-Peshawar travel time

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 23 December 2018. Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid on Sunday inaugurated Rahman Baba Express, a train service which will reduce travel time between Peshawar and Karachi to almost 26 hours, reported Radio Pakistan.

The minister, while addressing the inauguration ceremony, said that the fare for the train will be only Rs 1,350. He announced that two VVIP nonstop trains will also be launched in the next two months as well as three trains for tourists.

He vowed to pay back the ministry’s Rs 25 billion loan through fares. He said that VVIP services will be offered to passengers to pay off the loans of Pakistan Railways.

He added that he has already ordered the authorities to remove encroachments from around the Peshawar Railway Station. According to Rashid, the remaining encroached lands will also be recovered soon.

“About 20 new trains will be launched next year,” he said, adding that freight trains will also be increased from 10 to 15 to reduce the department’s losses.

He added Jahangira and Nowshera stations will be developed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Dawn – Government will not turn blind eye to protesters’ inciteful statements, asserts Fawad Chaudhry

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 04 November 2018. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry while addressing a press conference in Karachi on Sunday warned that the government would not turn a blind eye to, nor forget, the inciteful speeches made by religio-political leaders during protests against the acquittal of Asia Bibi last week.

“No one should have the impression that the government will forgive this behaviour,” he said. “The impression that this government is weak will be removed as we take further action.”

“The way that our people’s property was damaged, the way that judges of the top court, the Pakistan Army and the government were, the kind of speeches that were made, the government will not ignore or forget them,” Chaudhry asserted.

“Although the issue was resolved via a strategy, we will not forget the people who were involved,” he said.

“This is not a matter of religion, it is related to rebellion. Should the state ignore mutiny? The credibility of a state that ignores rebellion is questionable. Therefore, we cannot turn a blind eye to it.”

“The way the Constitution, the people, the political leadership, the military and judiciary were held in contempt, it is unlikely that we will forgive it,” he added.

“We’ve seen that being in government has its challenges. Dealing with those challenges is our day-to-day responsibility. There are people who sit ‘outside’ [the government] who think they can give all the solutions, but the choices that are available to you are not so broad,” he explained.

“What was happening before you: hundreds of people were shutting down streets. The government had two options: we could have used state powers, but there was a fear that damage would be incurred, and if that happened, then we would have been criticised and questioned as to why we did it.

So we did ‘firefighting’,” he said, using a word he employed earlier to refer to damage control.

“This doesn’t mean that any Pakistani or the government can approve the conduct that was witnessed here. This was firefighting. We reopened the cities without any damage. But this is not a solution.”

Development in Sindh

Chaudhry called on Sindh Governor Imran Ismail today, Radio Pakistan reported. Both leaders discussed the investment climate in the province, incentivising investment, federal government projects for Karachi, a development package announced by the prime minister for Karachi and other issues of mutual interest.

At the press conference, Chaudhry said that the biggest subject under discussion with a United Arab Emirates delegation that had visited recently was the resolution of Karachi’s drinking water problem.

“Karachi’s infrastructure, each time they say stop interfering in provincial matters,” he said, referring to the Sindh government. “But neither do you give the people anything, nor do you allow us to give them anything. This is not on.”

“The people of Karachi and Sindh have placed their trust in us… and whatever the federal government gives to the people in interior Sindh, we will give to the urban dwellers in Sindh,” he said.

‘Sindh government using political victimisation tactics’

The information minister, who met with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarians in Sindh today, said there were complaints that the Sindh government was employing tactics of political victimisation, “but this has been a trend with the PPP, and we have seen ‘gunda raj’ in Sindh, and dealing with it necessary.”

Chaudhry lashed out at the PPP, saying there was a stark difference between today’s PPP and that led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

“The way they put money in poor people’s bank accounts… The poor people should claim it and refuse to return it,” he alleged, referring to multiple reports regarding large sums of money being recovered by investigation agencies from bank accounts belonging to a falooda vendor and a rickshaw driver.

“Whenever we say that thieves should be thrown in jail, Khursheed Shah leaves the Assembly, but we don’t even name anyone,” he added.

The News – Naval chief visits forwards posts

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 28 October 2018. Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Chief of the Naval Staff visited forward posts of Pakistan Marines along Sir Creek to review the Pakistan Marines formations during Major Maritime Exercise SEASPARK 2018.

Upon Arrival at different posts in the Creeks area, Chief of the Naval Staff was received by Commander Coast, Rear Admiral Moazzam ilyas and Commander Karachi Rear Admiral, Asif Khaliq.

Comprehensive briefings were given to Chief of the Naval Staff about the troops deployed for the defence of Creeks Area which constitutes South Eastern maritime boundary of Pakistan.

Chief of the Naval Staff also inspected the forward locations and appreciated the alertness, commitment and readiness of deployed troops. He directed to ensure optimal utilization of latest weaponry/ equipment with motivation and alacrity in order to safeguard maritime boundaries of Pakistan.

Chief of the Naval Staff commended officers and men for maintaining high morale, courage and spirit of sacrifice to defend frontiers of the country.

While interacting with troops, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi expressed great satisfaction on the operational readiness and lauded their level of motivation and determination to safeguard maritime frontiers of the country at critical area under harsh topographic environment comprising marshes, swamps and unpredictable waterways.

Rear Admiral, Faisal Rasul Lodhi, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) was also present on the occasion.

Earlier, Chief of the Naval Staff also visited Joint Maritime Information & Coordination Centre (JMICC) at Manora, Karachi.

The Naval Chief was given detailed briefings on the operational aspects in the presence of other maritime stakeholders.

JMICC has been established by the Pakistan Navy to harmonize the efforts of all maritime stakeholders through timely gathering and sharing of information to effectively safeguard maritime interests of Pakistan.