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Was Jadhav’s meeting a mere mockery of human rights?

There were many cases of infringement been brought to the notice of Indian delegation that accompanied Kulbhushan’s kin.

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Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav is an Indian national arrested in Balochistan, Pakistan, over charges of espionage. IANS
Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav is an Indian national arrested in Balochistan, Pakistan, over charges of espionage. IANS
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NEW DELHI: The recent meet of Kulbhushan Jadhav with his wife and mother has called for some controversial debate by security experts. Pakistani officials made sure that the visit remained humiliating enough for both the women. There were many cases of infringement been brought to the notice of the Indian delegation that accompanied Kulbhushan’s kin. Kulbhushan’s wife Chetankul and mother Avanti, met foreign minister Sushma Swaraj after their meeting in Islamabad on late Monday.

The death sentence was granted to Kulbhushan Jadhav by the Pakistan army court and in no time, India approached the International Court of Justice to intervene in this case and got stay on his execution. After twenty agonizing months of his captivity, Kulbhushan was allowed to meet his family members under very scrutiny. It was only after Kulbhushan mother’s plea that Pakistan had let his family members meet, that too after diplomatic pressure been put up by the Indian government.

The meeting took place in the highly guarded building of Pakistan’s external ministry and was done under heavy surveillance of the security agencies. Later Indian government condemned the way meeting was conducted by Pakistani authority as it violated the spirit of understanding between the two countries. As per the prior negotiations, media wasn’t the part of this meeting but later the involvement of media led to the harassment of two women, as they were hurled by unnecessary questions by the media people. Media directed many questions at them and were made to hear some derogatory remarks against Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Then to add more agony, Kulbhushan’s wife and mother were forced to get away with the Hindu symbols such as bindi, mangalsutra, bangles and not only this, even to get rid of their clothes.

Kulbhushan’s mother, who belonged to a Marathi family, was restrained from speaking her own language, by the Pakistan officials who were recording the whole conversation.

JP Singh, the deputy high commissioner was initially set apart from the family members and the family was taken to the meeting without informing Singh. But after a strong protest by Singh, he informed the Pakistan officials regarding the violation of the mutual understanding that he was allowed inside.

However, none of them paid heed to Singh, and he was kept behind an additional partition. Even after strong demur, they did not allow him any access to the meeting, as discussed before.

Also, before letting her wife enter the meeting room, her shoes were taken away by the Pakistani officials and wasn’t even returned after the culmination of meeting and made his wife go back barefooted. After going through such an ordeal, the women narrated their traumatic and abusive story to Sushma Swaraj.

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Afghan Orchestra Flourishes Despite Social Issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border.

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Afghanistan
Negin Khpolwak, leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practices on a piano at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

The consequences of Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war are weighing heaviest on the nation’s civilians, with women bearing the brunt of the violence. The Taliban banned music and girls education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when the group was controlling most of Afghanistan.

But violence and social pressures have not deterred members of the country’s nascent orchestra of mostly young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.

The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine.

Hope and music

Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, the director of ANIM and the founder of the orchestra. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, he explained.

The musicologist spoke to VOA while visiting neighboring Pakistan earlier this month with the young ensemble to perform in Islamabad as part of celebrations marking the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Kabul’s embassy in Islamabad organized and arranged for the orchestra’s first visit to Pakistan.

Despite the many challenges in Afghanistan, Sarmast said, student enrollment has consistently grown and more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music. Around 300 students are studying not only music at the institute but other subjects, including the Quran, he said.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul. VOA

Advances for women

Negin Khpolwak, the orchestra’s first woman conductor, says Afghanistan has made significant advances in terms of promoting women’s rights in the past 17 years. She says there is a need to sustain the momentum irrespective of rising violence.

“We need to stand up to protect those gains and we need to open the doors for other Afghan girls,” Khpolwak said when asked whether deadly attacks around the country are reversing the gains women have made.

But violence alone is not the only challenge for women and girls, especially those who want to study music, she said.

“When you are going in the street with your instrument to the school and they are saying bad words to you and if you are giving a concert in public they are telling the bad words to you. But we are not caring about it,” Khpolwak said.

Afghanistan
Ahmad Naser Sarmast, head of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, speaks to members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Ethnic groups help each other

Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed.

“It’s hope for the future,” he said.

Ethnic rivalries have been a hallmark of hostilities in Afghanistan and continue to pose a challenge to efforts promoting peace and stability.

“I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.

Some of the members of the Afghan orchestra were born and brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan, which still hosts around 3 million registered and unregistered Afghan families displaced by years of war, poverty, persecution and drought.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, bring instruments to a class before a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom,” Sarmast said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border. Bilateral relations are marred by mistrust and suspicion.

Also Read: OrchKids- Bringing Jot to Underprivileged Kids Through Music

The countries blame each other for supporting terrorist attacks. Afghans allege that sanctuaries in Pakistan have enabled Taliban insurgents to sustain and expand their violent acts inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects the charges.

The Islamist insurgency controls or is attempting to control nearly half of Afghanistan. (VOA)