Thursday October 19, 2017
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Lost heritage: Revisiting the roots of Saraiki, the language of Multan

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By Keshav Chhabra

Hindustan vandeej giya, assan vi rovoon tey tussan vi rovoo!

(Hindustan has been divided. We cry; so do you.)

The familiarity in those strange words springs out effortlessly for the ex-residents of an undivided Hindustan. As if ‘something there is that doesn’t love a wall’. [1] The wall which has divided many and hasn’t given the world much to celebrate has out-strengthened the bond of love. The partition of Hindustan resulting into the formation of two countries, Pakistan and India, has, since then, been commemorated as a tragedy. The decision had baffled many, as portrayed brilliantly by Manto, ‘for whom, the Partition was an overwhelming tragedy’. The imprint of the event can be reflected in literature works in languages including English, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Sindhi and many others.

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But a language spoken by more than 20 million people continues to be ignored. The first sentence wasn’t in Punjabi, or Dogri, but in Saraiki (previously known as Multani), one of the most ancient in the world, but ‘un-developed’. Siraiki speaking people, though majorly in Pakistan, can also be found in Middle-East, Afghanistan and India (as a result of migration in 1947). In an attempt to understand the roots of the language, NewsGram team interviewed Dr. J.C. Batra, President of Siraiki International.

Dr. Batra has been a Barrister-at-law, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India. His mother tongue is Multani/Siraiki and he continues his efforts to promote Siraiki language throughout the world.

Multan is one of the most ancient cities of the world, dating back 6,000 years. And Dr. Batra believes that Multani is one of the most ancient languages in the world. He says, “Multan’s name was derived from Mool Sthaan (roughly translated as basic/root place). Multani is the mother of Sanskrit. But the language was undeveloped, before Pāṇini formulated rules of Sanskrit morphology. Not only Pāṇini, Charak, Patanjali, Kautilya Chanakya, Dronacharya are some of the great historic figures who spoke Multani.”

Previously, the language was known as Multani. It is only after the social and political leaders undertook the initiative to promote the language, it was renamed Saraiki/Siraiki in the 1960s. The language has three writing systems, having Persian script, Devanagari Script and Shahmukhi. One of the most ancient scripts, the Laṇḍā script is also used to write Saraiki.

Talking about the usage of Saraiki in the British India, Dr. Batra said, “George A. Grierson, an Irish linguist scholar, conducted the Linguist Survey of India (1898-1928) spent half a volume writing about Laṇḍā, also including Multani and other languages.” Born near Multan in the undivided India, Dr. Batra migrated to India in the present day Kunjpura, a village in Karnal (Haryana). He said he was baffled by the partition of the country and had always wanted to go to his birth-place.

“I did apply for a visa and I went there. When I was conversing there in Multani, a little kid asked his father- Dad, you say he has come from India. But he is speaking Saraiki. I was curious about what Saraiki was? His father told me that Saraiki was the new name for Multani.

“Saraiki has been the victim of the new culture. Our colonizers employed language as a tool of colonization and they have succeeded. One finds all the sign-boards and other public writings in English or Hindi, whether you go to Chandani Chowk or Katda or Kunjpura.

“The vocabulary, the thinking has changed. The terms we use have undergone a huge change. We don’t think in our mother-tongue anymore. We think in the language of the colonizers.”

Though Dr. Batra was justified in what he was saying, the driving force behind this huge project was still a mystery. He said, “Like me, there are many people who are keen to search their roots. This will certainly help in the revival of the language, the culture and bringing the two countries together. We want the revival of our roots so that we don’t get enslaved.”

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When asked what can be done to promote Saraiki, Dr. Batra was hopeful about the future and mentioned many practical and feasible ways to bring Saraiki and other ethnic languages in our usage.

“The language needs to be developed and brought in use. Books about Saraiki in English or Hindi will help to bring this change. The language should be taught at different levels. Another brilliant way can be to bring the language to use in economic purposes (or rozi-roti, as he calls it). The process is slow, but steady.”

There are many universities in Pakistan which continue to promote academic studies in Saraiki including Islamia University (Bahawalpur), Bahauddin Zakariya University (Multan). Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad and Al-Khair University (Bhimbir) offer M.Phil. & Ph.D in Saraiki. Apart from that, there is no shortage of Saraiki literature. From Khwaja Ghulam Farid to Mohsin Naqvi, there have been many Saraiki poets. “Around one thousand books and six hundred magazines are published in Saraiki language every year,” says Dr. Batra.

Dr. Batra runs a blog in order to promote the language. He has represented Siraiki International at various conferences in and outside India, and continues to do so. Himself a fluent speaker and influential author of Saraiki, he has written various poems in the language and he was generous enough to recite one for us.

You can watch the video here:

 

http://youtu.be/n_fdw5PhCGw

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Pakistan Elected to UN Human Rights Council along with 14 other countries

The new members will serve a three-year term from January 1, 2018

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UN General Assembly elect 15 new members of Human Rights Council. Wikimedia

United Nations, October 17, 2017 : Fifteen countries, including Pakistan, have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council by the UN General Assembly.

In a vote on Monday, Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine were elected, a Foreign Office statement said.

They will serve a three-year term from January 1, 2018. (IANS)

 

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Pakistan Electoral Body Bars Political Party Due to Terror Ties

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Sheikh Yaqub (C) candidate of the newly-formed Milli Muslim League party, waves to his supporters at an election rally in Lahore, Pakistan. voa

Pakistan’s Election Commission (ECP) on Wednesday rejected the registration application of a newly established political party with alleged ties to a banned militant group in the country.

Milli Muslim League (MML) has been disqualified to participate in the country’s state and general elections.

The electoral commission’s decision is said to be based on a request made earlier by the country’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, stating that Milli Muslim League is a front organization for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S.-designated terror sponsoring organization in Pakistan.

“The government is vigilant and under no circumstances will allow any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to spread their extremist ideology through democracy and political means,” Tallal Chaudhry, Pakistan’s minister of state for Interior Affairs, told VOA.

Saif Ullah Khalid, president of Milli Muslim League, dismissed the election commission’s decision and said the party will take the matter to the country’s judiciary.

Political wing

Milli Muslim League was established in August 2017 as a political wing for the controversial Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is believed to be a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group led by Hafiz Saeed.

Saeed was accused of masterminding Mumbai’s 2008 terror attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Saeed has been reportedly under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore for the past eight months.

In September, during an important by-election in Lahore, when the National Assembly’s seat fell vacant following the disqualification of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the newly launched MML backed an independent candidate who finished fourth in the race for Sharif’s seat.

At the time, Pakistan’s upper house of parliament strongly criticized the country’s election commission for allowing JuD’s political wing, MML, to participate in the Lahore by-election.

Some experts were concerned about the emergence of militant groups joining mainstream politics in Pakistan. They maintain that the political trend seen in Lahore’s by-election, where parties linked to militant groups are able to mobilize and generate sufficient numbers of votes within a very short period of time, as alarming.

“There should be a debate on this sensitive issue through social, political and media channels. By allowing militant-based political parties to integrate into mainstream politics, it will only escalate radicalization in the society,” Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar based political analyst, told VOA.

“There are people who believe with the merger of such militant groups into politics, we’ll provide them an avenue to maintain a political presence without leaving their extreme ideologies,” Hussain added.

Army’s support

Earlier last week, Pakistan’s army acknowledged they are mulling over plans to blend the militant-linked political groups into the mainstream political arena.

Some analysts side with MML, arguing the party should be allowed to participate in elections.

“I do not understand in what capacity the election commission has rejected MML’s application to register as a party,” said Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, the head of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT).

“Did they (MML) break any law? If not, how can you bar MML from entering the mainstream politics when they’re doing it through legitimate ways,” Mehboob emphasized.

Zubair Iqbal, a Washington-based South Asia expert, also raised concerns over the validity of the decision.

“This is how democracy works. … There are some extreme groups, some moderate groups and no one should be stopped because of their extreme ideologies,” Iqbal told VOA. “The extremist groups can be barred from entering into the politics only through people and democracy.”

“Unless these parties and individuals are allowed to participate in the political system they might never change their extreme ideologies and might continue operating underground which will prove to be more dangerous,” Iqbal added.

International pressure

In the past few years, Pakistan has faced escalating pressure from the international community for not being able to crackdown on militant groups enjoying safe havens in Pakistan and launching attacks in neighboring countries.

In his recent speech on the region, U.S President Trump put Pakistan on notice to take actions against safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistani officials deny the existence of safe havens on its soil.

Pakistan is also accused of being selective in its pursuit of terror groups. It allegedly goes after only those groups that pose a threat to the country’s national security, ignoring others that threat India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan rejects the allegations and reiterates its stance of having no sympathy for any terror group operating in the country.(VOA)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)