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Indian pilgrims overwhelmed in Pakistan

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Islamabad: Pilgrims from India who arrived in Pakistan at Katas Raj temples have called for eternal peace and warm relations between India and Pakistan.

“I am waiting for the day when citizens from both the countries living in the border areas can cross onto each other’s soil during their morning walk without any fear and barriers,” Dawn online quoted Sushma Gupta as saying in a ceremony at Katas Raj temples on Saturday.

Gupta was one of 124 Hindu pilgrims from India who arrived at Katas Raj in Katas village of Chakal district of the Punjab province on Friday under strict security.

“When we left for Pakistan, we were curious throughout the journey about how we would be received, and what Pakistan would be like. But when we reached Wagah border, we were left stunned by the love and warmth with which we were greeted,” Gupta said.

“Coming here, we found everything was same. Our language, culture, dress and our fields are all same,” Gupta said.

A cultural event was arranged at the temples on Friday night, during which Hindu artists from Sindh sang bhajans.

The recitation of the poetry of Saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was particularly well received.

Speaking at the ceremony on Saturday, Evacuee Trust Property Board chairperson Mohammad Siddiqul Farooq said the people of both the countries have always dreamt of everlasting peace and love between the two nations, which would only be possible if the governments took practical steps to attain peace.

“Although Partition caused irreversible loss to the people of both the countries, Partition is a reality and now we must accept this stark reality and move on. The best way to move forward could be that we open our hearts to each other,” he said.

Farooq said the ETPB is working to improve the facilities at Katas Raj temples. He also vowed to increase the number of pilgrims in the future.

“I am happy to tell you that last December 85 pilgrims came from India but this time, 124 people have arrived.”

Shiv Pratab Bajaj, the leader of the pilgrims’ caravan, said he would not forget the love and affection showered upon the people by the Pakistani side.

“Last December I demanded a hostel for pilgrims and this time, I am left overjoyed to see that construction is going on,” he said.

The pilgrims were also presented with gifts including dry fruits and shields.

Neelum Sharma and her husband Aditya from New Delhi were among the visiting pilgrims. They said this was their first time in the country and that they wished to visit Pakistan every year.

“When I left for Pakistan, my bedridden uncle asked me to pay homage to his motherland,” Neelam said.(IANS)

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump’s Tough stand on Pak

The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) issued a statement Monday welcoming Donald Trump's stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

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Donald Trump is famous for his rude comments towards brown people. wikimedia commons
Donald Trump is famous for his rude comments towards brown people. wikimedia commons

Washington, D.C.– The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Executive Committee issued a statement Monday welcoming the President’s stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

The AFB said President Donald J. Trump has called out Pakistan’s constant bluffs with the US and pointed out a big chunk of American assistance was used against people of Balochistan in a secret, dirty war instead of the Taliban.

Khwaja Wali Kirani in Balochistan. Wikimedia Commons

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” President Trump first tweet of 2018 reads.

The tweet was loved by nearly quarter-million Americans and retweeted 83,000 times in less than 24 hours.

The AFB executive committee said the US remains Pakistan’s top foreign aid donor, in addition to the money paid in expectation of cooperation in the Global War on Terror. Yet, for many years now, serving officers in the US Armed Forces have repeatedly spoken out about Pakistan’s perfidy in Afghanistan, which has cost the US lives, money and strategic credibility in the world’s eyes. Pakistan also remains a training ground for terrorism and a prime proliferator of nuclear weapons technology.

No country’s development and democracy have suffered more from Pakistan’s interference via state-sponsored terrorism than Afghanistan. US efforts to help the Afghans rebuild their nation are constantly sabotaged by reeling instability. India is another well-known target.

The AFB said Balochistan is a region rich in natural gas. It that has seen several bloody cycles of insurgency ever since Pakistan forcibly annexed the autonomous Baloch state of Kalat in 1948 in violation of a Standstill Agreement. A portion of historical Balochistan also sits on the other side of Pakistan’s border with Iran. Further, it borders Afghanistan to the north-west. Pakistan’s brutal record in this strategically located province that forms the northern lip of the key Straits of Hormuz has spiked in recent years.

“People of Balochistan tried their very best to work with Pakistan’s false promises of integration after forceful accession, but instead gave genocide to Balochs,” said the statement.

The AFB monitors the situation in Balochistan closely and is in touch with freedom and democracy activists on the ground. The AFB reiterated their call to the Pakistani government to cease violating the physical security of Baloch people, their freedom of expression, and end the policy of economic exploitation and genocidal violence.

A slow-motion genocide in Balochistan has claimed the lives of 35,000 Baloch people, 6,000 of whom were buried in mass graves while 21,000 are Victims of Enforced Disappearances, according to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. “The enforced disappearances situation in Balochistan is no different than what it used to be in Chile and Argentine in the 1970s and 1980s,” the AFB executive committee noted.

The AFB executive committee chimed in with similar sentiments expressed by policy experts in academe, veteran politicians, diplomats, intelligence chiefs, and human rights activists. Among them were former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leading South Asia expert and former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, several Baloch freedom and human rights activists cutting across party lines, former head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh, and even normally fierce critics of President Trump’s administration such as Prof. Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

The AFB executive committee consists of Jane Eastwood Weisner, Najeeb Khan, Krishna Gudipati, Soumya Chowdhury and Habiba Ashna. The organization was founded by veteran Baloch journalist Ahmar Mustikhan, who is the president.

Hope and doubt have been expressed on whether the US president’s tweet and words will translate into actionable legislation. Mustikhan published a survey of some of these thoughts in an article titled “Wave of joy sweeps across Afghanistan, Balochistan & India over Trump’s first tweet of 2018”.