The Express Tribune – Babri Mosque, Lahore Gurdwara: Legal parallels, different outcome

Anadolu Agency

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 09 November 2019. As Indian Supreme Court on Saturday handed over the site of 16th century Babri Mosque to Hindus for the construction of a temple, the Sikh community in Pakistan feels that the verdict should have taken a queue from Lahore’s Shahid Ganj Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) case.

The two cases bear striking resemblance in terms of claims and litigation.

They also termed the timing of the verdict “surprising”, as it coincided with the opening of Kartarpur border between India and Pakistan to facilitate Sikh pilgrims to visit their places of worship.

“The two sites (Babri Mosque and Shahid Ganj Gurdwara) share a close resemblance in terms of litigation, but not in terms of the outcome,” Sardar Ramesh Singh, the chairman of Pakistan Sikh Council, told Anadolu Agency.

Ramesh gave credit to the Muslim community for conserving Shahid Ganj Gurdwara and not converting it into a mosque after the creation of Pakistan.

“The land of Babri Mosque has been taken away from Muslim minority in India, whereas the Gurdwara of the minority Sikh community still stands at the same site in Muslim-majority Pakistan,” he said.

The history of the building known as Shahid Ganj Gurdwara, also called Bhai Taru Singh (a Sikh religious scholar) Gurdwara, has striking resemblance with the dispute of Babri Mosque, demolished by a frenzied Hindu mob on 06 December 1992 and now its site has been handed over to Hindus for the construction of a mandir.

Constructed by Kotwal (Chief Police Officer) of Lahore Abdullah Khan, during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1653, Shahid Ganj was a mosque till 1799, till the Sikh Army under Maharaja Ranjit Singh captured the city by defeating Afghans. They converted it into a gurdwara and barred entry of Muslims.

In 1849, when British took control of Lahore by defeating the Sikh Empire, Muslims pleaded for the return of the mosque and knocked the court. But the court using law of limitations, rejected the plea and questioned the delay of 51 years for claiming the mosque.

The London-based Privy Council, the highest court of appeal during British era also rejected Muslim claim on May 2, 1940.

Gurdwara protected by local Muslims

“Only a few Sikhs were left in the surroundings of Gurdwara, following the huge Sikh exodus in 1947. If the local community had insisted its conversion into mosque, nobody would have stopped them”, said Ramesh.

Sardar Charanjeet Singh, a Sikh community leader in Peshawar said India should learn from Pakistan in terms of protecting places of worship for minorities.

“Another Gurdwara was also re-opened in Peshawar five years ago, with the assistance of local Muslims”, Charanjeet, who also runs a facebook page “Peshawari Singh”, told Anadolu Agency.

He was referring to Gurdwara Baba Biba Singh, named after a 17th century Sikh religious scholar.

The Gurdawra had been closed following migration of Sikhs from Peshawar to India in 1947.

Currently, Peshawar hosts the largest population of Sikhs in Pakistan, who started settling down here from adjoining tribal areas and other parts of the country in 1960s for businesses and jobs.

The number of Sikhs in Pakistan is estimated between 30,000-40,000 out of some 200 million population of this South Asian Muslim country.

Apart from Peshawar, he said, two other Gurdwaras had recently been re-opened in Mandi Bahauddin and Gujrat districts of Punjab with the help of local Muslims.

Both Ramesh and Charanjeet termed timing of the verdict as “surprising” and “unfortunate”, when Sikhs were celebrating 550th anniversary of their founder Baba Guru Nanak and the opening of pilgrim corridor, along Kartarpur border between India and Pakistan.

“The judgment had been pending for over a long time. The Supreme Court could have waited a bit more. But it chose to announce the verdict on this occasion, which could have been taken as a point for inter-communal harmony in both countries,” he said.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2096739/1-babri-mosque-lahore-gurdwara-legal-parallels-different-outcome/

Sikh24.com – Sindh High Court orders judicial probe into murder case of Hindu girl Namrita Chandani

Sikh24 Editors

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 25 September 2019. The Sindh High Court has ordered judicial investigation into the murder case of Hindu girl Namrita Chandani, who was found dead in her hostel room on 16 September. Notably, Namrita Chandani was in the last year of her degree in Dental Surgery at Bibi Asifa Dental College in Larkana city.

A report published by a Pakistani media outlet reveals that the Sindh High Court has directed the sessions and district judge to investigate the murder.

It is learnt that the move came following the intervention of the Sindh state government. Earlier, the Sindh state government had directly ordered the sessions and district judge to begin probe into this murder case however, he had refused to do it and had said that he can only start investigation on the directions of the high court.

Sindh High Court orders judicial probe into murder case of Hindu girl Namrita Chandani

The Hindu – Hindu girl found dead in hostel room in Pakistan

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan. 17 September 2019. Chandni belonged to Ghotki, the district which was in the news since Sunday after three cases against 218 rioters were filed for vandalising properties, including a mandir.

A Pakistani Hindu dental college student was found dead in her hostel room in Pakistan’s Sindh province with a rope tied to her neck, a media report said on Tuesday.

Namrita Chandni, a final-year student of Bibi Asifa Dental College in Larkana district, was found lying on a cot by her friends on Monday with a rope tied to her neck. Her room locked from inside, The Express Tribune reported.

Chandni belonged to Ghotki, the district which was in the news since Sunday after three cases against 218 rioters were filed for vandalising properties, including a temple.

Widespread protests erupted in Ghotki on Sunday after an FIR was filed against the principal of Sindh Public School on the complaint of Abdul Aziz Rajput, a student’s father who claimed that the teacher had committed blasphemy by his anti-Islam remarks.

Chandni’s friends grew worried when she did not respond to their knocks on the door for several minutes.

She was neither responding to the knocking at the door nor to our shouts, one of her friends told the police.

The hostel’s watchman later broke open the door and found her dead, the report said.

Police is yet to ascertain whether the girl committed suicide or was murdered.

The girl’s body has been shifted to the district headquarter hospital for postmortem, but the police awaited her parents to arrive from Karachi for their consent.

College’s Vice Chancellor Anila Attaur Rehman said the incident appeared to be one of suicide but the police and the medical team will be able to ascertain the actual cause of death after the postmortem.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/hindu-girl-found-dead-in-hostel-room-in-pakistan/article29438548.ece?homepage=true

Dawn – Special police-team to probe murder of journalist and friend

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 11 July 2019. Police have launched an investigation into the murder of a TV anchorperson and his friend over a monetary dispute allegedly by their business partner who later attempted to take his own life on Tuesday night.

Officials said on Wednesday that two FIRs pertaining to the double murder and attempted suicide had been registered and a special team had been formed to investigate the matter.

Mureed Abbas, 34, anchor­person of Bol TV, and his friend Khizar Hayat, 45, were gunned down by Atif Zaman at separate places within the remit of Darakhshan police. Later, when a police party reached the residence of Atif Zaman, he tried to commit suicide.

“The suspect, Atif Zaman, had shot himself in the heart and got admitted to a private hospital where his condition was improving,” said SSP South Sheeraz Nazeer.

Quoting the doctors, SSP Nazeer said that Zaman’s heart was not damaged and his arteries were not affected.

The police officer said that Khizar, Abbas and Atif were friends and business partners, but the monetary dispute caused animosity among them.

At around 8.25pm on Tuesday, Madadgar-15 police received a call from one Zain, who reported that a man had suffered gunshot wounds.

The police rushed to the spot where the witness told them that the man (Khizar) received bullets in Khayaban-i-Bukhari. Khizar was taken to a hospital near Bilawal House where he was pronounced dead.

Around half an hour later, the police received another call from one Mudassir Iqbal who said there had been gunshots aimed at Mureed Abbas at Khayaban-i-Bukhari. The police rushed to the spot. He was taken to a hospital but he died on his way.

According to the SSP South, acting on an intelligence report and technical assistance, the police rushed to the residence of Atif Zaman at Nishat Commercial and cordoned off the area.

“The police party reached the building and knocked at the door of Atif’s apartment on the third floor. A gunshot was heard from inside the flat and it was Atif who attempted to commit suicide,” said the officer.

The SSP said Atif was taken to a nearby private hospital. His health was improving, he added.

Darakshan police have registered two FIRs, one against Atif under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code on a complaint of Mureed Abbas’s wife and the other against Atif for attempting to commit suicide.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1493391/special-police-team-to-probe-murder-of-journalist-friend

Dawn – What I learnt at Google’s ‘Women Will Lead’ Conference

Statistics showcased at the event proved that women are underpaid, overworked and burnt-out

Taniya Hasan

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 09 July 2019. If you feel women are grossly underrepresented in boardrooms you would have been blown away with the insights and statistics shared at Google initiative ‘Women Will’ Workshop held on July 5, 2019 at Avari Hotel, Karachi.

The Workshop was facilitated by Sarah Liu, an entrepreneur, brand strategist, author, speaker and advocate for women in leadership. Liu was informative, motivational and sent shockwaves amongst the audience, which comprised aspiring women leaders, as they were presented with the statistics that indicate that Pakistan ranks 148 (out of 149 countries) on the Gender Equality Scale.

With Yemen at 149, Pakistan is one just one spot away from becoming the country with the WORST gender disparity in the entire world. Shocked already? Fasten your seat belts curious minds, we’re about to enter turbulent territories. Here are four things I learnt by attending the workshop.

1. Only 25% of women in Pakistan are part of the workforce

Did you know that 77% of men in the world are part of the workforce, while only 50% of women work? In Pakistan, 82% of men work, while 25% of women enter the field with leadership aspirations. This is one of the main reasons Pakistan has a Global Equality Ranking of 148.

When further surveyed under the lens of gender equality, Pakistan stood at 146 for Economic Participation, 138 for Education Attainment and 145 for Security & Health. In a nutshell, women’s representation on Pakistan’s map of economic prosperity is pretty grim to say the least.

However, one factor where women comparatively get more opportunities than all the other pillars of national progress mentioned above is, politics! Pakistan is #97 when it comes to Gender Equality in politics so maybe you should take a moment to thank women politicians even if you don’t agree with their rhetoric.

2. Self-effacement is self-sabotage.

That self-policing, self-doubt you keep putting yourself under snowballs from a personal issue to a national-level concern faster than you think. Studies show that a woman only applies for a job when she meets 90% of the requirements mentioned while men would even apply to jobs they meet only 60% of the requirements for.

In another shocking revelation, 69% of men negotiate and ask for a higher package during their interview as compared to only seven percent of women! So next time you go for an interview, leave self-deprecating thoughts like ‘maybe I’m asking for too much’, ‘I mean I did take a career break so a pay cut makes sense’ at home.

3. She-EOs are the future

Women CEOs and leaders, despite their “complicated biology” and “moody” dispositions, outperform their male counterparts within their industries by 15% and the overall market by 28%! They have also been proven to have improved the general rate of emotional literacy at their organisation and are therefore able to open new doors for collaboration and communication.

4. Women are outrageously underpaid

It’s obviously no secret women are paid less than men because they’re not exactly the proverbial “breadwinners”. While the Subcontinent is a whole new level altogether, you’d be surprised to know that women in leadership positions globally and actresses in Hollywood also face the same issue.

In an interview, actress Michelle Williams divulged that while she was paid less than a $1,000 for a reshoot, her male co-star was paid a staggering $1.5 million (that’s a thousand times more!). The pay gap is expected to equalise by 2078 which is a long way to go and until then women will earn 85% of what men do and this gap keeps growing with age.

Ultimately, Women Will Lead was an eye opener on many levels even for someone like me who has spent a good number of years in marketing. While I always had an idea that gender biases prevalent in our industries are brushed under the carpet to maintain the peace index of the companies, I didn’t realise they were this distressing.

The statistics showcased at the event prove that women are underpaid, overworked and burnt out with implicit bias which, when combined with their self-policing and disinclination to fight for equal pay, only make things worse first on the personal, then on national and global level.

https://aurora.dawn.com/news/1143484/what-i-learnt-at-googles-women-will-lead-conference

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.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1980855/1-sikh-community-seeks-representation-assemblies/

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.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1481072/spirituality-encourages-people-to-return-to-innocence-says-shrine-custodian

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.

irfan.husain@gmail.com

https://www.dawn.com/news/1474273/karachi-as-an-atm

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.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1473377/bilawals-two-fold-challenge

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.

http://www.asianage.com/world/south-asia/231218/not-a-sign-of-weakness-pak-army-chief-on-imran-khans-india-offer.html