Tuesday October 24, 2017

Pakistan Government takes initiative to install Shikhar Kalash on Hindu Temples

For the first time in after Indo-Pak separation, Pakistan takes up the project of installing peak urns on plundered Hindu shrines

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A Hindu Temple in Pakistan, (representational Image), Wikimedia

Amritsar, January 6, 2017: For the first time since Indo-Pak partition, Pakistan government has taken an initiative to install Sikhar Kalash (peak urn) on the domes of Hindu temples which are believed to have been demolished decades ago and most recently during anti-Hindu rallies in Pakistan as an aftermath of the destruction of Babri mosque in India.

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The sewa (voluntary service) of renovation of domes and installation of Shikhar Kalash is being supervised and conducted by Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), enshrined with the job of managing Hindu and Sikh properties in Pakistan post 1947 Indo-Pak partition, after its chairman Farooq ul Saddiq himself made personal financial contribution for the sewa, mentioned TOI report.

“Yes, I began the sewa by making donations from my personal resources for installation of shikhar kalash but don’t ask me how much,” said Farooq in a conversation on Friday.

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The work is being personally directed by Faraz Abbas, deputy secretary of Hindu Affairs, ETPB.

Mentioning that the sewa had started at Katasraj cluster of temples, he also stated that temple domes having cracks were being repaired and after that shikhar kalash were being installed on them.

 Farooq informed that ETPB had the brass kalash made from expert artisans of Lahore which were later gold plated before their installation. “We have begun the renovation work which will be extended to all the Hindu temples managed under ETPB,” he said.

It was also mentioned that ETPB had installed several cages and green belt developed for birds and animals in the surrounding area of Katasraj temple cluster.

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According to Farooq, ETPB came in touch with several prominent Hindu leaders of Pakistan so as to carry out the renovation work of religious places in conformity with Hindu religious practices adding that all the renovation expenses and cost of shikhar kalash were produced by ETPB.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

 

 

 

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Plight of Pakistani Schools in Militancy-hit Tribal Regions

What will be the future of the youth in the absence of schools and education centers in a militancy-hit Pakistan?

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militancy in pakistan
A man travels on a vehicle laden with his family's belongings on the outskirts of Peshawar in an attempt to flee from the insurgency-hit Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. VOA
  • Insurgency in Pakistan has destroyed most of the public infrastructure, including education institutions
  • Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school
  • Over 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been damaged or fully destroyed by the insurgency in Pakistan

Pakistan, September 4, 2017 : Years of militancy and counterinsurgency operations in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region have destroyed much of the infrastructure, including education centers, in the area.

More than 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which is adjacent to the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, have reportedly been damaged or fully destroyed by the decade long insurgency, according to Pakistan government estimates.

While the Pakistani government claims to have rehabilitated around 900 schools, hundreds of schools have not been rebuilt or rehabilitated in FATA.

Experts say the government should take immediate steps to rebuild the destroyed schools in the tribal region.

“Several factors adversely affected education institutions in the tribal region. One factor is the Taliban who destroyed schools and education institutions, particular girls’ schools,” A.H. Nayyar, a Pakistan-based educationist, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Unless the schools are fully rehabilitated, it would be extremely difficult to give hope to the youth in the region.”

“It is important to open the doors of education for tribal youth so that they get the sense that they could achieve a lot in their life, like other citizens, particularly the girls; the government must rehabilitate their schools, utilizing all available resources,” Nayyar said.

Some tribesmen are returning home after more than one million were displaced by Pakistani military operations against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) in parts of FATA. According to U.N. estimates, about 95,000 families fled to nearby cities within Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan’s Khost province.

Pakistan’s Army says many areas have been cleared in recent counterinsurgency operations, and it is slowly allowing the displaced tribesmen to return to their home.

U.S. military commanders until recently considered the North Waziristan region in FATA as the “epicenter” of international terrorism. The region has for years served as a training ground for Taliban and other militants groups.

During the past several years, insurgent groups, including TTP, have repeatedly targeted education institutions and schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA region, depriving its younger generation of acquiring education.

Nearly 58 percent of the children between the ages of five and 16 are not in school in Pakhtunkhwa, according to Dawn, a local English language daily. Besides the militancy, extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure are also blamed for the lack of schooling.

Recent statistics by Alif Ailan, an education advocacy organization in Pakistan, show 48 percent of primary and secondary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa operate without adequate physical infrastructure.

Pakistan is 50 years behind in its primary and 60 years behind in secondary education targets, according to a recent United Nations report. The literacy rate in poor rural areas stands at 14 percent for females and 64 percent for males. Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school. (VOA)

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Facebook Meets With Pakistan Government After Blasphemy Death Sentence

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File - In this April 18, 2017, photo, workers stand in front of a demo booth at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, California. VOA
  • Pakistan believes in freedom of expression, but that does not include insulting Islam or stoking religious tensions
  • Pakistani counter-terrorism court sentenced a 30-year-old man to death for making blasphemous comments on Facebook
  • In April, a Pakistani university student, Mashal Khan, was beaten to death by a mob after being accused of blasphemous content on Facebook

A senior Facebook official met with Pakistan’s interior minister on Friday to discuss a demand the company prevent blasphemous content or be blocked.

The meeting comes after a Pakistani counter-terrorism court sentenced a 30-year-old man to death for making blasphemous comments on Facebook, part of a wider crackdown.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of public policy, met Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, who offered to approve a Facebook office in Pakistan, which has 33 million users of the network.

Khan said Pakistan believes in freedom of expression, but that does not include insulting Islam or stoking religious tensions.

“We cannot allow anyone to misuse social media for hurting religious sentiments,” Khan said.

Facebook called the meeting “constructive.”

In this photo released by Pakistan's Press Information Department, July 7, 2017, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, left, meets Vice President of Facebook Joel Kaplan in Islamabad, Pakistan.

In this photo released by Pakistan’s Press Information Department, July 7, 2017, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, left, meets Vice President of Facebook Joel Kaplan in Islamabad, Pakistan.

“Facebook met with Pakistan officials to express the company’s deep commitment to protecting the rights of the people who use its service, and to enabling people to express themselves freely and safely,” the company said in an email.

“It was an important and constructive meeting in which we raised our concerns over the recent court cases and made it clear we apply a strict legal process to any government request for data or content restrictions.”

Pakistan’s social media crack-down is officially aimed at weeding out blasphemy and shutting down accounts promoting terrorism, but civil rights activists say it has also swept up writers and bloggers who criticize the government or military.

One of five prominent writers and activists who disappeared for nearly three weeks this year later told a U.N. human rights event in March that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies had kidnapped him and tortured him in custody.

Others’ families said right-wing and Islamist parties had filed blasphemy accusations against them to punish them for critical writings.

Anything deemed insulting to Islam or the Prophet Muhammad carries a death penalty in Pakistan, and sometimes a mere allegation can lead to mob violence and lynchings. Right groups say the law is frequently abused to settle personal scores.

In April, a Pakistani university student, Mashal Khan, was beaten to death by a mob after being accused of blasphemous content on Facebook. Police arrested 57 people accused in the attack and said they had found no evidence Khan committed blasphemy. (VOA)

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)