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Freedom under threat in India: Pakistani daily

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Islamabad: The “rise of the right-wing” in India could have toxic effects regionally, said a leading Pakistani daily, which warned that alarm bells are ringing and “India needs to reaffirm its commitment to pluralism and diversity”.

An editorial “Intolerance in India” said: “Freedom is under threat in India and many of its right-thinking citizens are speaking out against the wave of right-wing violence and repression.”

“There is genuine reason for alarm. Some of the violence and intimidation has been Pakistan-related, with Shiv Sena activists in Mumbai forcing the cancellation of a concert by Ghulam Ali recently and, more menacingly, dousing in black paint the organiser of a talk featuring former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri,” said the daily.

“But much of the intolerance and extremism is directed inwards, at India’s rich cultural and religious diversity.”

It noted that this year alone, two progressive voices have been silenced forever with the murders of Govind Pansare, in February, and MM Kalburgi, in August.  Both men were known for their opposition to religious extremism and had spent much of their lives championing progressive causes.

“The lynching of a Muslim man in a village outside Delhi for allegedly consuming beef shocked not just India, but the world…”

The editorial went on to say that worried by the “rise in religiously inspired extremism and by the indifferent attitude of the federal government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s vibrant civil society is pushing back”.

More than 40 intellectuals and writers have returned literary awards or written open letters to protest the rise in intolerance and the assault on free speech.

“The growing public outcry is a welcome sign that India’s history as a constitutionally protected secular democracy will not be erased by a single election or by extremists emboldened on the fringes of society,” said the daily.

“Welcome as the pushback is, much more will need to be done if India is to protect its cultural diversity and pluralism,” it added.

This country’s long, painful slide towards extremism and intolerance suggests that if problems at the fringes are not addressed quickly by state and society, extremism can become mainstream and fiendishly difficult to roll back.

“The Pakistani experience has also made terribly clear the destabilising effects on the region when intolerance and extremism is on the march nationally. In India’s case, the rise of the right-wing could have even more toxic effects regionally.

“The alarm bells are ringing; India needs to reaffirm its commitment to pluralism and diversity.”

(IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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Will Pakistan listen to USA and Stop Harboring Taliban and other terrorist groups?

Pakistan said that Afghan Terror groups don't need hideouts or sanctuaries in Pakistan

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A Pakistani border security guard stands alert at Pakistan-Afghanistan border post
A Pakistani border security guard stands alert at Pakistan-Afghanistan border post. VOA
  • America have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time Pakistan is housing the very terrorists they are fighting
  • Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye on the issue of safe havens to Afghan Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network
  • Top leaders of both groups-Taliban and the Haqqani network enjoy the ability to live freely in certain parts of Pakistan

Washington, USA, September 2, 2017: In his South Asia strategy speech last week, President Donald Trump publicly puts Pakistan on notice that it must stop providing sanctuaries to armed groups that are fighting in Afghanistan.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” said Trump, laying out his “condition-based approach” to defeating terrorism in Afghanistan.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. But that will have to change and that will change immediately,” he vowed.

Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye on the issue of safe havens to Afghan Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Analysts charge that sanctuaries in Pakistan have helped the militants sustain a bloody insurgency in Afghanistan against the Western-backed Afghan government.

“Top leaders of both groups [Taliban and the Haqqani network] enjoy the ability to live freely in certain parts of Pakistan — mainly Baluchistan province, but also some of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” Michel Kugelman, a South Asia analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, told VOA.

“It is not just the leaderships of these groups that enjoy Pakistani largesse; it’s the fighters, too,” he added.

Also Read: The US Designates Hizbul Mujahideen as Foreign Terrorist Organization

Where are the sanctuaries?

Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, is reportedly based in the Pakistani southwestern city of Quetta, which shares a border with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, the traditional stronghold of the Afghan Taliban.

The Haqqani network, one of the most notorious terror groups in the region, is reportedly based in Miram Shah, a town in the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northern Pakistan. The group, which has been blamed for numerous deadly attacks inside Afghanistan against U.S.-led NATO forces and the Afghan government, is reportedly operating with impunity from across the border.

The Afghan government charges that militant sanctuaries are the main reason behind the country’s instability.

“Neighbor countries have been a major part of the problem in Afghanistan. Terrorists’ safe havens and sanctuaries are out of Afghanistan, where they get support, training, and equipment,” Ahmad Shah Katawazai, a defense liaison at the Afghan embassy in Washington, told VOA.

Pakistan’s response

Pakistan maintains that the Afghan Taliban controls large swaths of territory inside Afghanistan and does not need to have sanctuaries inside Pakistan.

“They don’t need hideouts or sanctuaries in Pakistan. They have vast territory [under their control], which is beyond Kabul’s writ, at their disposal. Why would they come to Pakistan for sanctuaries?” Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said over the weekend.

Following Trump’s speech, Pakistan denied the allegations that it harbors militants and cited its sacrifices in the ongoing war against terror as an example of how the country itself has been a victim of terrorism.

In an effort to illustrate its displeasure at the U.S president’s speech, Pakistan postponed Asif’s planned trip to Washington and also delayed a planned visit to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to Islamabad.

Could the U.S. take unilateral action?

As the administration is weighing its options to deal with the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan, some analysts doubt Pakistan will take action against militants operating from its soil unless more rigorous pressure is applied on the country.

“The Trump administration will need to deploy new forms of pressure. Previous forms of pressure — threats, aid conditionalities and aid cuts — have not worked. The administration will need to step up its actions and make them much more draconian — and this is clearly already under consideration,” Kugelman, of the Woodrow Wilson Center, told VOA.

Meanwhile, David Des Roches, an associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington, believes that while it is unlikely that the Pakistanis would back down publicly, it “is quite possible that they will facilitate enhanced American action against militants in Pakistan.”

What seems unclear so far is to what lengths the U.S. is willing to go as far as tackling the issue of safe havens in Pakistan.

While talking to reporters at the State Department last week, U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that the U.S. would target terrorists “wherever they live” without elaborating further.

“There’s been an erosion of trust because we have witnessed terrorist organizations being given safe haven inside of Pakistan to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. servicemen, U.S. officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.

Also Read: ‘Blood Stained Hands’ Plan to Take Over Pakistan’s Political Reigns as Terrorist Organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Prepares to Enter Politics

Sanctions

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, told VOA that the U.S. should target Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries inside Pakistan and push Islamabad “out of its comfort zone.”

“Pakistan has become comfortable with its dual policy; receives U.S. assistance and works to defeat the U.S. in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad said.

He advocated for sanctions against senior military and intelligence officers who support extremist groups.

“Take Pakistan off the list of the major non-NATO ally, which provides the opportunity to receive significant security assistance; suspend assistance program; push IMF, World Bank, and Asian and European allies to suspend assistance programs,” Khalilzad added.

“If America imposes sanctions, Pakistan will probably be unable to receive assistance from IMF and the World Bank, and international companies will not be willing to invest in Pakistan,” Saad Mohammad Khan, a retired Pakistani military leader, told VOA. (VOA)

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Tons of Dead Fish in Pakistan Prompt Authorities to conduct Drinking Water Tests

Samples of water and dead fish sent for forensic testing after a complaint

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Dead fish in Rawal lake
Dead fish float on the surface of Rawal lake on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, July 15, 2017. VOA
  • Tons of dead fish found in Islamabad’s Rawal lake 
  • Samples of water and dead fish sent for forensic testing
  • No alert issued by the police and the fisheries department yet 

Authorities in Pakistan’s capital are investigating the water in the city’s main reservoir after tons of dead fish were found in a lake on the city’s outskirts.

Police officer Imran Haider says Saturday samples of water and dead fish from Rawal Lake have been collected and sent for forensic testing after a complaint received from the capital’s fisheries department.

ALSO READ: Seawater can turn into drinking water for millions around the world without access to Clean Water

According to Haider, Mohammad Sadiq Buzdar of the fisheries department said there has been an increasing number of dead fish in the lake since monsoon rains began three days earlier.

Police and the fisheries department have not yet issued any alert regarding the situation.

Rawal Dam is one of two that enable water reservoir lakes for the capital. (VOA)