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Outswinger: Navjot Singh Sidhu has been Run Out by Aam Aadmi Party

Through Outswinger, I deliver my opinion on a wide range of issues

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Navjot Singh Sidhu. Wikimedia Commns
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As one friend from London said: In Cricket, the batsman may strike hard on a ball, but cannot make a run unless the batsman on the non-striking end is also willing to run!

And that is what is precisely happening to Navjot Singh Sidhu! He was pitched to join the new party on August 15. The media is abuzz that his talks with AAP have gone sour and that he is unlikely to join AAP now.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has made him Run Out!

While so much has been written on this, there are some noteworthy observations that I bring to you.

  1. The cricketer turned commentator and politician made some wrong calculations. No doubt! Sensing the groundswell goodwill for AAP in Punjab (that was until a few months back. Since July 2016, the graph is going down for the one-man party and it will further keep sliding down), Mr. Sidhu thought that he would join the bandwagon and ride his way on to becoming the CM of Punjab.
  2. Well, what Sidhu missed was the internal struggle of AAP and ambitious career plans of Kejriwal:
  3. The way I know the Aam Aadmi Party, half of the energy of Mr. Kejriwal is invested in ensuring that no credible leadership develops within the party. Giving a high platform to Sidhu does not do anything good for Kejriwal himself.
  4. AAP also gave a reason that Sidhu was demanding a ticket for himself and his wife and the party does not let 2 members from the same family hold positions in the party. Naturally, this ‘rule’ suits AAP to deny Sidhu’s demand. But, look at the Haryana convener of AAP. A few months back, Naveen Jaihind was ‘thrust upon’ Haryana as a state convener by Kejriwal. His wife is Chief of Delhi Commission for Women. So much for the principle of ‘Swaraj’ that the party keeps professing!

India makes its official: Pakistan’s atrocities in Balochistan cannot be ignored

On this August 15, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the nation from Red Fort on Independence Day also broached the issue of Pakistan carrying out atrocities in Balochistan.

In the past, India has always desisted from raising the issue of Balochsitan demanding ‘azadi’. India has also turned its face to the blatant human rights violations and atrocities committed on Baloch people by Pakistan.

Credit: TheLineoffreedom.com
Credit: TheLineoffreedom.com

No more! In a complete reversal of a long trend, Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister who has spoken on this issue. Before the Independence Day address, Modi also expressed India’s resentment on the issue of Pakistan’s human rights violations in Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan in a all-paty meeting in Delhi.

Modi’s gesture has sent a wave of excitement among Baloch leaders fighting for a separate Baloch nation.

Balochistan constitutes 46 % of Pakistan’s total geographic area. Despite its rich natural resources, it continues to be an under developed and a poverty-stricken area. Baloch nationalist guerillas fighting for its freedom from Pakistan maintain that Balochistan had always been an independent nation and was made a part of Pakistan by deceit and manipulation.

In recent years, there has been a surge of Indians voicing their support for a free Balochistan, particularly through social media.

What is the next step, Govt of India can do? Subramaniyan Swamy has given a good starting point.

 

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Pakistan Reacts Sharply To U.S. Religious Freedom Charges

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused

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A Pakistani nun holds a candle during a vigil for victims of a deadly suicide bombing in a park, March 28, 2016, in Lahore. VOA

Pakistan is denouncing a U.S. decision to place it on a list of countries Washington says are the worst offenders of religious freedom.

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities… there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise,” the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a strongly-worded statement.

The reaction comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his designation of “countries of particular concern” that allegedly have engaged in or tolerated ”systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Freedom Violations

The countries on the blacklist are exposed to punitive sanctions, but Pompeo waived them for Pakistan, citing U.S. national interests.

Pakistan had until now been on a U.S. watch list for governments that have “engaged in or tolerated” severe violations of religious freedom.

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Pakistani volunteers collect debris from an Ahmadi mosque demolished by an angry mob, in the eastern city of Sialkot. VOA

While rebuking Tuesday’s U.S. pronouncement as “unilateral and politically motivated,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry noted Pakistan is “a multi-religious and pluralistic society” of more than 200 million people, mostly Muslims.

“Around four percent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths. Ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan,” it said.

Ahmadis most persecuted community

The statement did not mention the Ahmadi sect, which critics say is the most persecuted minority in Pakistan. The constitution bars the community from “posing as Muslims” and from calling their worship places “mosques.”

U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback while defending downgrading of Pakistan reiterated Tuesday the challenges facing the Ahmadi community.

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Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, speaks to reporters at the State Department in Washington. VOA

“The Pakistani government criminalizes the identification of Ahmadis as Muslims, and then also — and this one has really been difficult and troubling for a lot of people — the government often fails to hold accountable perpetrators of killings and violence against members of religious minorities targeted on account of their religious beliefs or affiliations,” said Brownback.

Blasphemy laws

He cited, among other things, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as a cause for the downgrade of the country’s religious freedom ranking. The laws prescribe the death penalty for those found guilty.

Rights groups have long complained Islamist groups misuse the law to intimidate minorities in the country.

Insulting Islam or its prophet is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where mere allegations have led to mob lynchings. A former provincial governor, a federal minister, judges and lawyers are among those assassinated in Pakistan by extremists merely for calling for reform of the blasphemy laws to prevent their misuse or for hearing cases and defending alleged blasphemers.

Asia Bibi

In a historic judgement this past October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been on death row for eight years after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. The women denied the charges from the outset as an outcome of a local feud and the country’s highest court cited lack of evidence in overturning her conviction by a lower court.

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Radical Islamists rally to condemn a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA

Bibi and her family have been in hiding since her release. Her lawyer fled Pakistan shortly after the landmark court ruling announced on October 31, saying his life was in danger.

Bibi is awaiting a rehearing of her case by the Supreme Court and is residing in a safe place under government protection, say Pakistani officials.

Pakistan also arrested hundreds of Islamist activists and their leaders last month for staging days of mass violent protests to denounce the court for freeing Bibi.

Also Read: Muslims in Malaysia Rally In Kuala Lumpur To Keep Status

The government has charged the detainees with treason and terrorism and officials have vowed to put them on trial in special courts.

“It’s our hope that they will, the new leadership in Pakistan, will work to improve the situation. There was some encouraging signs seen recently on how they’ve handled some of the recent protesting against the blasphemy laws, and we continue to watch very carefully what’s happening to Asia Bibi,” said Brownback.

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused of committing severe violations of religious freedom. (VOA)