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Asia News Columns World News

SPECIAL: Paucity of goods & services dog Pakistan

Pakistan is witnessing an unprecedented economic crisis fuelled by the shortage of different commodities and essential services. It has not only affected its food supplies but has had a negative impact on other important sectors such as medicine, power supplies and even education… A special report by Dr Sakariya Kareem

Pakistan is witnessing an unprecedented economic crisis fuelled by the shortage of different commodities and essential services. It has not only affected its food supplies but has had a negative impact on other important sectors such as medicine, power supplies and even education. The power crisis in Pakistan has reached the next level as commercial markets and government officers are forced to shut down much before their scheduled time.

Expressing the inability to find a solution to the power crisis, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “We are facing a severe crisis… We desperately need to take energy conservation measures. We need to tap on every option to save on energy.”

So offices are made to work just five days a week from earlier six-days a week while official fuel allowance has been reduced by 40 per cent.

Power generation projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have failed to ensure optimum energy supply in Pakistan. Now inadequate LNG supply due to increasing global prices has added to Pakistan’s power generation woes.  The deteriorating financial situation is making it difficult for the Islamabad government to arrange the resources and materials required for enough power generation.

The shortfall of around 7,000 megawatts, which accounts for one-fifth of Pakistan’s power generation capacity, is affecting the industry, especially, textile production which has a lion’s share in the country’s exports.  “The textile industry is in a state of emergency,” Qasim Malik, the vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, said in Sialkot.

Besides daily power cuts of up to eight hours, there have been curbs on social programmes and commercial activities. There cannot be a wedding after 10 pm and markets have to shut by 8.30 pm. This has added to the problems of common households in Pakistan, who are already facing the problem of food shortage.

 Food prices have gone up while people’s income has reduced, thus aggravating the problem of food insecurity. According to the World Food Programme, about 43 per cent of the Pakistani population is facing a food shortage. Think tank- International Forum For Rights and Security (IFFRAS) blamed the Islamabad government for inconsiderate planning and mismanagement of agricultural sources for the problem.  “We are an agricultural country, but we are also a food scarce country. We import wheat, lentils and edible oil. We can’t even grow enough to feed our country. When your industry and agriculture is ruined, you have zero growth and zero jobs,” said Dr Kaisar Bengali, a leading economist in Pakistan.

People of Pakistan have been struggling to get life-saving drugs including paracetamol, Panadol and Azomax for months. This has aggravated the risk for people infected by Coronavirus. Drug manufacturers blamed the Islamabad government for imposing a 17 per cent tax on imports of raw materials required to manufacture these drugs.

According to Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the country is facing a shortage of 40 types of medicines, and 100 more medicines are likely to be added to the list, thanks to rising prices of raw materials. 

“Our cost of raw material and shipping has increased five to six times in the last six months. If the sales tax is not withdrawn, it will lead to a further shortage of medicines and an increase in their prices,” said Qazi Mansoor Dilawar, chairman of the association.

Even as a new academic session is about to start, many students are not likely to get textbooks thanks to the paper crisis in the country. Publishers and Booksellers Association of Pakistan said the 200 per cent hike in the price is responsible for the ongoing paper crisis.

“If the prices of paper are not stabilized, booksellers will not be able to provide textbooks to millions of students this year,” said Aziz Khalid, chairman of the association.

Pakistan government has failed to keep the rising prices of paper under control as well as to reduce heavy taxes on paper imports. “Due to this, textbook boards of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will not be able to print textbooks,” said Dr Bengali.

The falling Pakistani rupee against the US dollar has disrupted businesses especially those rely on imported inputs. This has put an additional burden on the Islamabad government which is struggling to address the problems arising due to the shortages.

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-Top News Arab News Columns

Biden’s Mideast regional tour: It’s all about the agenda

US President Joe Biden’s regional tour will culminate in an extraordinary summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, and attended by the leaders of the GCC states as well as the heads of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq … writes Osama Al Sharif

President Joe Biden will make his first Middle Eastern tour mid-July but everyone is speculating about his agenda. A flurry of diplomatic activity is taking place well before his visit with regional leaders exchanging views to come up with a unified response to a number of issues that are likely to feature during Biden’s regional tour which will culminate in an extraordinary summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, and attended by the leaders of the GCC states as well as the heads of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

US President Joe Biden (Photo: Twitter@POTUS)

Biden will begin his tour with a visit to Israel before meeting President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank. He will then travel to Saudi Arabia—and may make a short stopover in Amman—for an historic visit aimed at resetting ties between Riyadh and Washington. It is no secret that relations between the two countries had gone through a tense phase following Biden’s presidential victory. Biden had talked about Saudi Arabia being an international pariah during his election campaign and was seen by both the Saudis and Emiratis as doing little, while in the White House, to condemn and respond to attacks by the pro-Iran Houthis in war torn Yemen.

So much so that both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had ignored calls by Biden and top US officials following Houthi drone and missile attacks against sensitive targets in the two countries. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February had changed the global geopolitical realities. Suddenly Biden needed the two oil-rich Middle Eastern countries to help calm the bullish energy markets, which were wreaking havoc on the economies of the US and Europe.

Biden has said that energy was not the only issue he will be discussing with regional leaders during his visit. Israel wants Iran’s nuclear file to top the talks in light of the stalemate hampering a conclusion to more than one year of tough negotiations in Vienna. Israel has been threatening to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites.

Giving boost to such a scenario is the US Congress adoption of a bill calling on the Pentagon to integrate the air defenses of Israel and a number of Arab countries that are close allies to the United States within a specific period of time. A week ago Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that Israel has joined with several other countries in the Middle East to form a new US-led joint air defense network, known as the Middle East Air Defense Alliance (MEAD). No other Arab country has confirmed this.

Israel has already deployed its air defense system in two Gulf states aimed at thwarting any missile threat from Iran. Gantz has said that the program is already operative and has enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries.

Saudi Crown Prince pays a visit to Turkey to renew ties

Unconfirmed Israeli reports said that the US has been planning to facilitate Riyadh’s inclusion into the Abraham Accords during Biden’s visit. Again there was no confirmation of this by Saudi Arabia.

During the regional tour last week by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, a joint Jordanian-Saudi communiqué reiterated both countries’ support of the two-state solution in accordance with UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative (API). The API, presented by the Saudis in 2002, calls for recognizing Israel only if it withdraws from occupied Palestinian territories and accepts the creation of a Palestinian state. Despite Israeli media speculation, the Saudis have been consistent in their unwavering position on the Palestinian issue.

It is unlikely that the Jeddah summit will lead to a Saudi normalization with Israel. At least three of the GCC countries refuse to normalize ties with Israel until a just solution to the Palestinian issue is concluded.

That leaves the issue of formalizing what has been dubbed as a US-led Middle Eastern NATO with Israel being part of it. That too is problematic even for countries that have recently normalized ties with Israel. In a recent interview with CNBC, Jordan’s King Abdullah said he would “be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East NATO” but added that the vision of such a military alliance must be very clear, and its role should be well defined. “The mission statement has to be very, very clear. Otherwise, it confuses everybody,” he said.

For Jordan an openly anti-Iran military alliance, with Israel being part of it would create a backlash at home. Same could be said of the UAE, which has close economic ties with Iran. As much as Iran’s regional behavior is condemned, no Arab country would explicitly join a military coalition that could wage war on the Islamic Republic, which could have terrible outcomes for Gulf countries and beyond.

Israel would like to impose a certain agenda on Biden’s Middle Eastern tour. That possible agenda would annoy Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar for various reasons. The fact is that there are different calculations for each country. The best Biden could do now is to reset US-Saudi ties after a rollercoaster year. There is nothing he can do to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks and it is unlikely that he can recruit many countries to join openly an anti-Iran military front. So far his agenda will be limited to achieving what a majority of Americans want and that is to secure a proactive Saudi role in controlling the erratic oil markets in a bid to alleviate the economic damage back home ahead of crucial midterm elections in November.

(Osama Al Sharif is a veteran journalist and a political commentator based in Amman)

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Asia News Columns India News

Tale of two Kashmirs

When India is implementing several new projects to take Jammu and Kashmir to meet the demands of the post-Covid economy, the occupied part of Kashmir on the other side suffers with new influx of Chinese workers and corrupt politicians. The PoK is vastly an underdeveloped territory due to Islamabad treating it as a centre of terrorism, while New Delhi’s policy of development, peace and prosperity has turned Jammu and Kashmir into one of the most developed regions in the world …. Writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

There can be no comparison between Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Jammu and Kashmir. The PoK is vastly an underdeveloped territory due to Islamabad treating it as a centre of terrorism, while New Delhi’s policy of development, peace and prosperity has turned Jammu and Kashmir into one of the most developed regions in the world.
There is no comparison between PoK’s capital city Muzzafarabad with Srinagar or Jammu, twin capitals of J&K. It’s like comparing metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Kolkatta to a provincial town in India.
As per the Aadhar statistics the J&K population in 2021/2022 stood at 13,635,010 (13.64 Millions), while PoK’s population is approximately 52 lakhs.

The J&K has an area of 42241 square kilometers, while PoK is spread over 13, 297 square kilometers.  J&K has 22 districts, while PoK has only 10. J&K has four airports, PoK has only 2. There are 35 universities in J & K and in PoK there are only 6.  There exist about 2812 hospitals in J&K to provide free health care to people compared to 23 hospitals in PoK.
In J&K people can choose any medium for education i.e. Hindi, Dogri, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Urdu and English while in PoK only Urdu is in vogue one of the major reasons for people remaining uneducated and unskilled.
Average literacy rate in Jammu and Kashmir for urban regions is 77.12 percent in which males are 83.92% literate while female literacy stands at 56.65%.  While in PoK literacy rate is around 70%. Most literates in PoK can only write and read Urdu, foreign languages are alien to them.
The condition of roads in PoK is pathetic. Everyday people plunge to their deaths in ravines in road accidents due to lack of safety walls. Many patients die each month due to lack of basic medical facilities and anti-venom vaccines.
In February this year Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented a Rs 1.12 lakh crore (13.33 billion US dollars apex) Budget for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for the year 2022-23. The Budget aims at building the economy and creating jobs in the Himalayan region.
The J&K Budget focuses on education, home, public health engineering, with power development getting highest allocations for the financial year 2022-23.
The J&K’s economy is expected to grow by 7.5 per cent on current prices during 2021-22.
In J&K four National Highway projects are expected to be completed in 2022.  Ten new road/tunnel projects have been agreed by MORTH under Bharatmala. The world’s highest 1315-meter long railway bridge over River Chenab is targeted for completion by September 2022.
Projects under the Prime Minister’s Development Package have seen expenditure of Rs 36,112 crore.
A total of 25 projects have been completed/substantially and another four projects are likely to be completed by the end of the current financial year.
For Industries and Commerce, capital expenditure in J&K is estimated to be Rs 555.80 crore. For the rural sector, an allocation of about Rs 4,627.85 crore has been made under Capital Expenditure for the year 2022-23. The  capital expenditure for the power sector is estimated to be Rs 2,457.58 crore, while that for the school and higher education sector is estimated to be Rs 1,806.66 crore.
On the other hand the annual budget of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) in 2021-22 was 141 billion Pakistan rupees which is just over 78.55 million US dollars.
Recently PoK’s Finance  Minister Abdul Majid Khan stated that the federal government slashed PoK’s development budget by Rs 5.2 billion, which Khan said, could lead to severe financial system disbalance.
Another PoK minister, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed accused the federal government of harbouring “deep animosity” towards the people of PoK and Gilgit Baltistan by imposing budget cuts in the territory.
The federal government in Pakistan was supposed to provide Rs 49.9 billion to PoK as its 3.64 per cent share in the federal taxes pool (variable grant) but that too has been slashed by Rs 4.4 billion.
The 3.64 per cent share from the federal taxes pool which was agreed under a financial arrangement between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad in 2018 is equalled to Rs 74.32 billion in Financial Year 2022-23, but the federal government had recently informed that it would provide only Rs 60 billion. This has created a shortfall of Rs 14 billion in PoK’s income which cannot be bridged from any other source.
The PoK ministers are of the opinion that the federal government’s decision to slash the budget allocations could affect PoK’s financial system beyond control and make the region poorer.  

Suffer silently
Denizens of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) are suffering silently as they are not allowed to raise their voice. The media is controlled by the government to ensure that human rights violations by the armed forces and the terrorists aren’t reported.
China has made inroads into PoK and is using the land to fulfill its ambitions. The federal government in Pakistan has gone out of way to appease China and is allowing its golden plan of forming a sea route through PoK. Thousands of Chinese engineers and workers are deployed in PoK.

The works being carried out by them have ruined the natural resources and beauty of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The irony is that natives of PoK have to go and work as waiters, drivers and labourers in other cities of Pakistan, while the people of Chinese origin are earning their livelihood in PoK.

The debt ridden Pakistan Government cannot dare to ask China to employ the locals in its projects. The unemployment graph in PoK is on rise as the jobs which the locals could have got are being snatched by the outsiders.

Path of progress

  
Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 is fast turning into a hub of business and tourism activities. It has become the most preferred tourist destination as lakhs of tourists have thronged J&K during the past two years.
The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is on its way to become an express highway. The train to Kashmir is not that far-away and by 2024, the Valley will be connected with the rest of the country through a railway network.

People of J&K, especially Kashmir are no longer living in illusions created by the Pakistan stooges. After August 5, 2019—when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate so-called J&K’s special status and divided it into two Union Territories—Kashmir hasn’t witnessed any street protests and shutdowns.
The government during the past 2-years has advertised more than 20,000 vacancies.

The Union territory has received new investment proposals worth thousands of crores. Youth are being provided all possible help, including financial support, to set up business ventures and become successful entrepreneurs. The youth in J&K are shining in every field from sports to education. For people of J&K sky is the limit while for the citizens of PoK even managing two square meals in a day is becoming a difficult task.    

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Columns Health Woman

PLIGHT OF ASIAN WOMEN IN BRITAIN

Something has to change…Suicide rate of Asian women three times the national average- why? Explores Faiza Ahmed

Asian women in Britain have the highest rate of suicide, three times the National average and on a par with soldiers returning home from war. (Journeyman Pictures – Why are UK authorities ignoring honour killings? – YouTube )

What makes the lives of Asian women so unbearable that they feel the only way to escape the horror of their everyday existence is to take their own lives?

We all know that there are issues within parts of the Asian community with forced marriages and honour killings when young people struggle to cope with being raised between two vastly different cultures.

The cases of Shafilea Ahmed and Banaz Mahmood are well known and were well-publicised  after they died. No one helped them when they were alive when it could have made a difference to these young women and saved their lives.

According to Journeyman Pictures, one of the main causes of suicide is because of young Asian women seeking to escape marital rape after being forced to marry someone they don’t want!

However, there are other stories besides these more typical stories of honour killings and forced marriages that don’t get told.

For example, take the case of Sara (not her real name) who stood first at every school she attended before the age of sixteen and was told by Asian peers that she was considered the most likely to succeed.

Awarded the prize for best O Level results at 16 and having been invited on an Asian radio show in 1988 ( Smeet Petite and the Karachi Kid on GLR Radio) after winning a competition, she and her peers felt she was set to have a bright future.

After being considered for a place at Cambridge in 1990 (She had attained the points at A Level and aced the interview at King’s College Cambridge), she attended a red-brick university (rated among the Top 10 British universities) from 1989 and graduated with a 2:1 BA Hons in 1992.

A hard-working serious minded young woman, she was a trained and qualified teacher by the age of 22 like her father, maternal grandfather and great grandfather before her. Sara’s life looked as if it was set to shine….

In the late 1990s,  she attended Thames Valley University for a script writing course and her tutor Tony Dinner ( a former head of the BBC Script Unit) told her in front of a class that her work was good and that she must never give up on her talent even though it was hard for new writers to get a foot in the door!

It looked as if she had it all until she became the target of a smear campaign by other Asians who quite possibly had a problem with her success.

This was even though she had been a child of divorce who had been raised without a father from the age of 10 in council housing on a pittance as her mother received no child support! In spite of this disadvantage, she had worked hard to build a better life and had achieved some success because of hard work.

Despite her efforts, she found herself being smeared as a terror threat to Britain by mentally unstable people connected to the father who had failed to pay child support and had been absent from her life from the age of 10. They destroyed her success after never having contributed to it!

Not only that but then she was targeted by other Asians who were rivals to that paternal family who called her “the daughter” of the man who had abandoned her at age ten because he didn’t want to pay child support!

They made her pay to the age of 50 for the absent parent who never paid for her when she was a child of ten and carried out a tribal vendetta against her!

This was tribalism, something that is prohibited in Islam which these Asians claim to follow! Other crimes condemned in Islam were to follow- slander of innocent women, spying and backbiting innocent people, harming the fatherless, the less fortunate the “widow” and her fatherless orphan!

A teacher’s daughter, grand daughter and great grand-daughter, she was rumoured by these pathologically lying strangers to be a terrorist, tart, gang person, a drug addict!

Gossip is a sin in the religion of Islam but gossip was favoured over 40 years of verifiable exemplary school and work reports and an enhanced DBS check!

Sara found herself being depicted as the exact opposite of all that she was after being exemplary! Her mother had raised her to believe that being good and working hard was the key to success but this proved not to be the case!

Sara was deeply humanitarian and had been a regular charity donor giving to seven British charities a month and doing voluntary work but they slandered her as a terrorist!

A teacher’s daughter, grand-daughter and great grand-daughter this teetotal woman was rumoured to be a gang person taking drugs possibly by Asian gang people taking drugs in a part of London where she never goes and knows no one!

She and her maternal relatives complained to the police and her MP about the abuse.

Sara even turned to social media in desperation and uploaded verifiable proof of the facts- 40 years of verifiable school and work reports and other documents that prove she has been exemplary and deeply humanitarian as well as proof that she had lost contact with her father in primary school!

She felt compelled to do this because in a society that has lost the fear of God, lies can be casual and even exemplary people can be demonised to save face for those who have done wrong especially when bigotry, racism or discrimination is involved.

Suicide is forbidden in Sara’s religion and as a devout Muslim she turned to her faith for comfort, a faith which forbids suicide but there is no joy in her life after being exemplary and the girl who once was thought by some of her Asian peers to be the most likely to succeed now counts down to the day when her life will be naturally over and she can escape the sadness of a life that feels empty.

At 51 she has ended up with no husband, no children. She has never known what it is to have a wedding day, to be a bride or to hold a new born child in her arms, to be a mother, to have a family that will be there for her in her old age to care for her as she cares for her mother. This is a sad ending for a girl who was exemplary.

Someone whose poetry had been published in the children’s section of the Young Observer in Asia in 1981, Sara never did write the sitcoms, novels and plays she might have written because of the stress caused in her life by other Asians who made her a target for the more sinister and dangerous people of other groups who harbour covert racist tendencies who would always try to demonise even exemplary Asians like herself in order to whitewash the wrong done to them.

There is good and bad in every ethnic group and sadly Asian women who are unprotected and disadvantaged in some way can be targeted by the nastier elements of every group who will milk their disadvantage. This is what happened to Sara.

After 9/11, local councils were given the right to spy on terror suspects. All it took for Sara to become a suspect was for an unstable, possibly envious person to tell lies!  While working at her local council she noticed a colleague repeating word for word things she had said in her own home, the same colleague who openly stated that, “Kicking people’s heads in with bovver boots is a primitive method but it works.”

She began to suspect that far right violent and dangerous racists who like to brain damage Asians were invading her privacy on every level as a result of the lies of other Asians!

She stopped writing for fear of plagiarism and all her talent was wasted. She has spent her life in fear of being brain damaged, the girl who had stood first and been told by a former BBC head that she had real potential, real talent.

Writers can bring millions into the economy if their talent is nurtured so it is Britain’s loss if British writers are wasted. Sara was also top ranked in an industry said to be worth $63 billion dollars a year to the economy but this talent was  also wasted. (Why the ESL Market is set to boom in the next 10 years – www.CEFRexambot.com­)

This is a story less typical than the stories of forced marriages and honour killings but it is a story that needs to be told for if even exemplary Asian girls can’t make it, then what hope is there for the rest of us?

No wonder the suicide rate of Asian women is three times the national average and on a par with the suicide rate of soldiers returning shell shocked from wars! Asian women who are disadvantaged in some way are being set up to fail!

Instead of ignoring the problem, the Asian community in Britain needs to face what is wrong and work together to rectify the situation to make life better for Asian women. There is no excuse for apathy on this issue given the shockingly high suicide rate.

It is unacceptable that Asian women and girls can be exemplary and end up endangered and with nothing after following the rules and being perfectly behaved.

Something has to change…

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-Top News Asia News Columns

PAKISTAN: Sikh Community Faces Existential Threats

Islamist groups within Pakistan are feeling more emboldened and fearless to target minorities, and also patronage given to the right-wing forces during the former ‘hybrid regime’ of Imran Khan. There is a spike in targeted killings, abductions, forced conversions, and false cases of ‘Blasphemy’ against members of Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Shia, and Ahmadiyya communities in Pakistan … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

In a brazen incident on May 15, two Sikh traders – Kuljeet and Ranjit Singh – were assassinated in the outskirts of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. The Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) took the responsibility for the attack. According to the local community, this was the ‘twelfth’ such incident since 2014, when Sikhs were targeted by extremists in KP province alone. In September last year, Satnam Singh, a Sikh Unani medicine practitioner was shot down inside his clinic in Peshawar. 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also strongly condemned the murders and said in a statement, “This is not the first time that the Sikh community in KP has been targeted and we demand that the KP police identify and arrest the perpetrators promptly.” The recent killings in Peshawar’s outskirts illustrate the vulnerability of the Sikh community in Pakistan, which is facing an existential threat from Islamist outfits.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s Rizwan after destroying the statue of Ranjit Singh at Lahore Fort

Growing terror activities in the region have further complicated the situation for religious minorities in Pakistan. Islamist groups within Pakistan are feeling more emboldened and fearless to target minorities, and also patronage given to the right-wing forces during the former ‘hybrid regime’ of Imran Khan. There is a spike in targeted killings, abductions, forced conversions, and false cases of ‘Blasphemy’ against members of Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Shia, and Ahmadiyya communities in Pakistan. It seems that the larger objective of the Islamist outfits, and their ‘state’ sponsors, here is to either forcefully convert ‘non-Muslims’ to Islam or create an unlivable environment for religious minorities, pressuring them to leave Pakistan.

Sikhs are easy targets because of their unique religious identifications and their population accumulation in unsafe areas of KP. It is ironical that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, and intelligence agencies, are giving patronage to extremist Khalistani elements to foment security disturbances in India’s Punjab, while it is failing to safeguard its own Sikh population from terror attacks. There are reports which suggest that the Sikh population in Pakistan has seen a decline in the last two decades amid rising cases of forced conversion and targeted attacks against the community members.

According to Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, there are just 15,000-20,000 Sikhs estimated to be left in Pakistan of which some 500 Sikh households are in Peshawar. Whereas the Government of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority figures suggest that there were 6,146 Sikhs registered in Pakistan in 2012. Interestingly, Pakistan has not yet released the population data pertaining to minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Christians etc, since the last census conducted in 2017. It is clear that Pakistan wants to hide the real numbers of the religious minorities in order to avoid international criticism over their declining population, which is a direct consequence of years-long persecution of these communities.

Historically, Sikhs and majority Muslim community in Pakistan have maintained a decent relationship after the bloody events of 1947-48. However, due to increasing security threats, Sikhs are now moving to safer places in Pakistan. For instance, several Sikh families have moved from border agencies of the erstwhile Federally Administrative Tribal Region (FATA) to Peshawar. Most Sikhs in KP come from a financially weak background and run small grocery shops or work as Hakeems. For them, migrating to a safer place is fast becoming a compulsion. Additionally, Sikhs from KP do not have financial wherewithal to start afresh in a new place. More importantly, there is no ‘long-term’ guarantee of their security in any region of Pakistan.

In January 2020, a violent mob attacked one of the holiest Sikh shrines, Nankana Sahib Gurudwara, in Punjab province. The incident terrorised Sikhs across Pakistan because it made them realise that even Punjab was not safe anymore. International Sikh organisations have expressed their concerns regarding recent incidents of targeted killings of the Sikh community members in Pakistan. For instance, the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) condemned the Peshawar killings and expressed deep concerns for the safety of Pakistan’s Sikh community. In their statement, the WSO stated that Sikhs in Pakistan are “feeling vulnerable and unsafe.” Moreover, “they do not know if they will return home safely, if they go out.” So far, these condemnations and appeals to safeguard the Sikh minorities in Pakistan have fallen on deaf ears.

Religious minorities in Pakistan are known to be treated as ’second-class’ citizens. Neither the civilian government nor the security establishment prioritise them. On the contrary, they have been largely used to fulfil  domestic political objectives or certain foreign policy goals. The Sikh community in Pakistan has also been used as a ‘propaganda’ tool to create disturbances in India’s Punjab. However, increasing targeted killings of the Sikh community members will only create tensions within Pakistan. Consequently, there is a growing disenchantment among minority communities in Pakistan, especially among Sikhs, who thought that they could co-exist peacefully along with majority Muslims. But with religion-centric ideas like turning Pakistan into a ‘Riyasat-e-Medina’ (Islamic Welfare State like Medina) or growing demands of imposing ‘Sharia Law’ in the country will further shrink space for religious minorities to survive in Pakistan. 

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Asia News Columns World News

GRAVE DESECRATION: NEW WOES FOR PAKISTAN’S AHMEDIS

The Pakistani Constitution officially declared the Ahmadis sect of Islam to be “infidels” and barred members of the community from “posing as Muslims,” which the vandalized graves were found guilty of. The community members allege that there is government complicity … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Pakistan’s Ahmedi or Ahmediyya community is facing a new woe of late: Graves of its dead are being dug up and their body remains are thrown away. Over fifty such cases have been detected in Punjab and in and around Peshawar.

The latest case reported by the Friday Times (May 27, 2022), happened in a village near Peshawar. The body was that of Ishfaq Ahmed, son of one Dr Sarwar of Sangu village in Peshawar. He died in Ukraine 27 years ago. The desecration took place on May 19, according to Saleem ud Din, the spokesperson of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan.

A day earlier, a 36-year-old Ahmadi man was stabbed to death in front of his two children in Okara. The murderer, who is reported to be affiliated with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was a student at a local madrassa, the weekly reported.

Ahmedis are Muslims who were declared non-Muslim by Pakistan in 1973. They are subjected to increased discrimination from the government and the society at large dominated by the majority Sunnis. There are also frequent moves to ensure that they do not sport Muslim-sounding names.

The Pakistani Constitution officially declared the Ahmadis sect of Islam to be “infidels” and barred members of the community from “posing as Muslims,” which the vandalised graves were found guilty of. The community members allege that there is government complicity. Many cases are hushed up and even when cases are registered, investigation and prosecution are weak and the culprits go scot-free.

“Even mainstream political leaders do not refrain from dragging minorities in their speeches at rallies, which ends facing even more cases of hate crimes.

“Ahmadis also face mistreatment from the justice system, as many lose their lives while being tried for blasphemy, the weekly said in its report. A few sections in the media report these incidents. The press, by and large, ignores violence against the Ahmedis, unless it takes place on a large scale, attracting international attention.

Earlier this year, a 70-year-old Ahmadi man on trial for blasphemy died in Bahawalpur Jail due to alleged mistreatment despite his ill health. He was awaiting his bail hearing scheduled for later this year.

An earlier report of August 23, 2021, quoted historian and lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani, former BBC Urdu editor Tahir Imran Mian and human rights activist Rabia Mehmood and Ali Warsi to discuss how arms of the state are complicit in this violence against this minority community.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif

They alleged that while Pakistan accuses the world community of indulging in Islamophobia, its own people engage in that more frequently and violently when it comes to the Ahmedi community.

In a detailed report cum analysis in The Diplomat journal (February 14, 2022), Kunwar Khuldune Shahid pointed to Dr. Abdus Salam (1926-1996), a renowned physicist and Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate. Despite his pioneering work in establishing many of Pakistan’s institutions of learning and research in physics, he was not allowed to return home despite several pleas. He remained a Pakistani national and died a dejected man in Paris.

Yet, his grave in Rabwah was damaged. The word “Muslim” has been erased from the phrase “the first Muslim Nobel laureate in the English inscription.”

Shahid also dwelt on the desecration of dead Ahmedis’ graves – this time by the Punjab Police. It desecrated 45 graves belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect in Hafizabad town.

“Police personnel damaged the tombstones and removed Islamic inscriptions in accordance with the law.”

“In addition to desecration of graves, the police also regularly demolish Ahmadi mosques over similar allegations of masquerading as Muslim worship places. Ahmadis are barred from giving the Islamic call to prayer, or even displaying “Muslim names” in front of their homes.

“Most ominously, the Ahmadiyya sect remains the most vulnerable to Pakistan’s violent blasphemy laws, with at least 13 Ahmadis killed and 40 wounded since 2017 owing to their identity. This is in addition to the jihadist attacks on the community. In 2010, twin mosque terror raids in Lahore killed at least 94 Ahmadis.

The persecution of Ahmadis is rooted in the sect’s faith in its 19th-century founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, which representatives of other Islamic sects deem sacrilegious. Ahmadis’ beliefs “are dragged into astonishingly unrelated realms in Pakistan.

In 2018, the incumbent Imran Khan government backtracked on the appointment of renowned economist Atif Mian as financial advisor owing to his Ahmadiyya faith. Besides accusing the Ahmedis of being collaborators with “India and Israel,” the Ahmadi sect “is held responsible for pretty much any predicament, including the outbreak of COVID-19.”

Shahid writes: “What Pakistan unquestionably has in place is veritable religious apartheid….. Indeed, Pakistan is indubitably more phobic of the Ahmadiyya sect, and their interpretation of Islam, than most of the states that Imran Khan vocally deems “Islamophobic.” In Pakistan, Ahmadis have been arrested for purchasing literature, partaking in Eid celebrations, or even reciting the Quran.

“The government’s Islamic advisory body has even incited genocide against Ahmadis. Ministers have called for “beheading of blasphemers,” which, incidentally, is the law in the country, used by Islamist mobs to get away with murder,” Shahid writes.

This apartheid is deepening and widening strife. “For Pakistan, ignoring the apartheid against Ahmadis has resulted in similar calls against Shia Islam being echoed in, among other places, the parliament. It has further emboldened a three-way turf war among Sunni jihadist groups, which root their Islamic terrorism in takfir, the belief that they have the right to determine who is and isn’t a Muslim.”

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The real story is not Abu Akleh’s murder

In a few weeks the uproar over Abu Akleh’s killing will die down. But the reality for the Palestinians will not change. Hundreds of Abu Aklehs will be killed and injured as has been the case for decades. And again the West will look the other way. Israel knows this and the sad fact of life is that Israel is right in believing so …. Writes Osama Al Sharif

Two weeks after the cold-blooded murder of veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin in the occupied West Bank her killers remain at large. Since her killing, which was caught on camera for the whole world to see, at least two Palestinian youths have been murdered by the Israeli occupation forces. In fact, in Jenin only 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the beginning of 2022; 42 in the last two years.

 So far Israel has refused to launch an inquiry into Abu Akleh’s death, which the Palestinians and many eyewitnesses blame Israel for. The UN, the EU, the US and many international organizations like Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders have all called for an independent probe into the killing of the 51-year-old American citizen. Israel is coming under pressure to investigate the death and allow others to look into her murder. But the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, is unrelenting even as his shaky coalition is about to be voted out of power.

Tension between Israel and Palestine flare up

But despite the tragic death of Abu Akleh and the unprecedented global backlash, one cannot but underline the fact that, once more, the West is applying double standards when dealing with anything that has to do with Israel and its decades-long brutal occupation of Palestine.

Immediately following the gunning down of Abu Akleh, many mainstream western media obfuscated the facts by choosing neutral words when reporting the crime. The New York Times shamefully wrote: Abu Akleh “dies at the age of 51” while others ignored the fact that the only armed force in the area were Israeli soldiers. During her funeral, heavily armed Israeli police stormed the hospital where her coffin was about to be moved to the cemetery and attacked the pallbearers and mourners on live TV. The hesitant western media talked about “violence” and “clashes” erupting at the funeral. Again there was no pointing the finger at Israel and her brutal treatment of Palestinians under occupation.

But even then, and as politicians and international organisations condemned the killing and the attack on the mourners, few dared to speak about the larger picture; that in effect it is not the killing of Abu Akleh that was the issue but the vile Israeli occupation.

 Abu Akleh was not the first journalist to have been killed by Israeli occupation forces in the last two decades. According to independent figures more than 50 journalists, the majority Palestinians, have been gunned down by Israeli soldiers since 2000. And like Abu Akleh’s documented murder, there is plenty of evidence implicating Israel in almost all of these deliberate killings. In a handful of cases, Israel promised to carry out an investigation and in almost all, there was no culpability.

Abu Akleh was a high profile journalist; a household name for millions and an American citizen. Her murder had shocked the world and elicited an unexpected backlash. But the stark irony is that Abu Akleh had covered the occupied territories for almost 25 years and in the process reported on tens of extrajudicial killings by Israel of Palestinians; the majority of whom were unarmed civilians. Not once had the West moved to push for independent probes or to hold Israel responsible. The fact that the entire occupation of the West Bank is illegal under international law is notwithstanding.

Palestine urges UN to contain Israeli actions in East Jerusalem

Less than two weeks after Abu Akleh was killed, Israeli forces stormed the Jenin refugee camp for the umpteenth time. On 21 May and in a morning raid they killed 17-year-old Amajd Al-Fayyed, who was reportedly shot 12 times. No one in the West is going to condemn his murder or call for a probe. His wanton death was not going to be reported by the western mainstream media as well. He is just a statistic in a never ending register of Palestinian casualties who succumbed in “clashes”. No one in the western media is going to do a human interest story about who Amjad was, what he dreamt of, or how his bereaved mother and siblings feel. No one is going to ask why he was killed and if his killers are ever going to face justice.

The killing of Abu Akleh has embarrassed Israel, if only for a fleeting moment. If worse comes to worse and if the US puts pressure on Israel an internal probe may be conducted and the final reports will come up with flimsy excuses for her death. That will be that.

But the real story is not about Abu Akleh. She never thought that she would be the news. Her life was dedicated to covering the plight of her people. That remains the story—the only unfolding story.

In Israel itself voices were raised that the Jewish state had lost the battle for public opinion. Israel was being lambasted not in the mainstream media but on social media platforms. Millions, from all over the world, told the story as it really is; about a brutal occupation that has dehumanized the Palestinians in every way, both Muslims and Christians. The story was about Israel that is above the law, unaccountable for its breaches of international laws and conventions and one that continues to carry out its crimes with impunity.

In a few weeks the uproar over Abu Akleh’s killing will die down. But the reality for the Palestinians will not change. Hundreds of Abu Aklehs will be killed and injured as has been the case for decades. And again the West will look the other way. Israel knows this and the sad fact of life is that Israel is right in believing so.

(Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman)   

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Arab Allies In A Fix Over Israel’s Attacks on Al-Aqsa

What Jordan and the Palestinians fear now is that the Israeli premier is caving in to pressure to divide the mosque itself; thus allowing Jews to share the inner sanctum of the mosque and perform Talmudic prayers there … writes Osama Al Sharif

In the prickly political landscape of the Middle East, religious-based violence will almost always trump political expediency. And as much as Israel was able to weave a web of new alliances with long-time Arab foes in the past few years, its repeated breaches of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan and violent attacks on Palestinian worshippers in addition to allowing hundreds of Jewish extremists to tour the Muslim compound and perform Talmudic rituals was too much to bear even for its Gulf allies.

Responding to calls from influential King Abdullah of Jordan, who was convalescing in Frankfurt from spine surgery, the UAE Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to Abu Dhabi last week to deliver a “strong protest and denunciation of the events taking place in Jerusalem and [in] Al-Aqsa Mosque, including attacks on civilians and incursions into holy places that resulted in the injury of a number of civilians.”

This was the first public rebuke of Israeli actions by the UAE since establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries two years ago. Not to be left out, Bahrain and Morocco too deplored Israel’s escalations at Al-Aqsa.

 To underline that Abu Dhabi was serious about its position, Emirati airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi announced that it will not be participating in an Israeli Independence Day flyover in May. Both moves represented what can be described as setting a line in the sand by the UAE, which had taken bold moves to build what observers saw as an alliance between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, especially in the areas of military and intelligence cooperation, free trade, tourism, energy and others.

 When Israel’s new allies reacted this way, the response from old allies was even worse. Amman had sparred with Israel before over breaches of Al-Aqsa, where King Abdullah is recognised as custodian. This time Jordan launched a flurry of diplomatic contacts to put pressure on Israel to respect the historical status quo, which recognizes the 14 square kilometre Al Haram Al Sharif as a place for Muslim worship but allows non-Muslims to visit the compound in coordination with the Islamic Waqf.

 The Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam, has been a flashpoint between Palestinians and Israelis since the 1967 war and the occupation of East Jerusalem. In 2000 when Likud leader Ariel Sharon stormed the compound in a provocative visit he triggered a second Palestinian Intifada. In 2015 then Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu agreed to an agreement, brokered by the Americans, to respect the historical status quo at Al-Aqsa.

Jordan King: Israel must respect rights of Muslims to worship at al-Aqsa

But with right-wing parties in Israel gaining the upper hand in the past two decades, influential far-right parties and voters pressured successive governments to open up the Mosque’s compound to radical Jewish visitors. Often these visits ended with Israeli occupation forces attacking Palestinian worshipers.

 Since Naftali Bennett, a right-winger himself, formed his broad coalition government last June, he tried to appease radical Jewish settlers and small extremist parties by lifting objections to almost daily visits/breaches of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Last May Hamas and Israel went to war over such breaches and attacks on worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan.

What Jordan and the Palestinians fear now is that the Israeli premier is caving in to pressure to divide the mosque itself; thus allowing Jews to share the inner sanctum of the mosque and perform Talmudic prayers there. Israelis claim that the holy site, which they call Temple Mount, is also the location of the Jewish Temple on which the temple of Solomon once stood. Far-right politicians and radical Jews declare that their intention is to demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque and rebuild the Jewish temple on its ruins.

 For King Abdullah, whose great grandfather King Abdullah I was assassinated at the steps of Al-Aqsa in 1951, the link to the holy site cannot be severed at any cost—even if that meant terminating the peace treaty with Israel. The legitimacy of the Hashemites of Jordan is embedded in what Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary, from where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven on a miraculous nocturnal journey. For more than a billion Muslims believe in the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif is anchored in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

Jordan Israel responsible for serious repercussions at al-Aqsa mosque

 This is where religion gets in the way of politics. Despite the UAE’s strategic decision to sign a peace treaty with Israel, it cannot look the other way when Israel, for no clear logical reason, provokes tens of millions of Muslims by attacking the mosque and unarmed Muslim worshippers in the midst of the holy month of Ramadan.

 The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and even Egypt and Jordan would rather deal with a secular Israel within its 1948 borders and not with Israel as an occupying power that kills Palestinians, usurps their lands and defiles Muslim shrines on daily basis. This now is the conundrum facing Gulf and Arab leaders. None want their relationship with Israel to drag them into a religious showdown. They would rather focus on geopolitical threats such as that of Iran and possibly Turkey at a time when there is a growing perception that the United States is abandoning the Middle East.

 But understanding domestic Israeli politics is crucial for the determination of the future of Arab ties with Israel. The Israeli left has been decimated in the past decade and a half and the centre-left cannot form a government without relying on small far-right parties. The fact is that the Israeli society has been veering to the far right for some years and with every election cycle.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and

 Gulf leaders will adapt to the fact that they are dealing with radical far-right Israeli governments in the foreseeable future and that means that religious tensions will continue to take centre stage at the domestic level. Striking a balance will be a delicate task. The Arab world cannot afford to look the other way or watch as false witnesses if and when a radical Israeli government makes the daring step of dividing Al-Aqsa Mosque or worse.

 (Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman)

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DESPERATE IMRAN PUTS PAKISTAN IN TROUBLE

Then, under Imran Khan’s rule, Pakistan distanced itself from the US. The Pakistan PM is yet to receive a phone call from the US’s new President, Joe Biden. At the same time, the country seems to be getting closer to China and Russia; Khan recently visited both the countries. This is not a stance that the Pakistani military condones. Clearly, Khan’s political career is in a soup … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is one more in the long list of the country’s leaders who were ousted before they could finish their tenure. First, he lost his majority in the National Assembly after Muttahidda Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), a key ally, walked out of the coalition, accusing the government of economic mismanagement. The opposition tabled a no-confidence vote in the parliament, seeking his ouster.

On March 8, nearly 100 members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) submitted a no-confidence motion before the National Assembly Secretariat. They have alleged that Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) is responsible for the grave economic crisis that the country presently finds itself in. Khan, a world-famous cricketer, started his political career in 1996 with the launch of his party PTI, which aimed to challenge the dominance of PML-N and PPP. Though Khan became a Member of Parliament in 2002, his party tasted success only in 2013, when it emerged as the second largest in Pakistan.  

Painting a vision of a “new Pakistan”, the populist leader came back with a bang in 2018, with unprecedented wins in all five constituencies of the country. The former cricket captain branded himself as a religious, anti-poverty reformer, who wished to create an Islamic welfare state and reform the country’s tax system and bureaucracy. He even vowed to never take help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) again. Upset with the past political order, voters saw Khan as a harbinger of change and even the military favoured him. But none of his promises came to fruition. Pakistan was hit by a wave of inflation as the rupee plummeted and the country’s debt soared. The Covid-19 onslaught didn’t help the matters. In the end, Khan had to negotiate a $6bn rescue plan with the IMF to shore up the country’s foreign currency reserves.

Then there were other problems. Khan was accused of keeping his opponents in jail on corruption charges in the name of cleaning up “dynastic politics”. Also, while publicly upholding liberalism, he had been appealing to Islamic values and anti-West sentiment. Under his rule, Islamist militancy in Pakistan also shot up. Khan even expressed sympathy for the militant Taliban, a move that earned him the nickname “Taliban Khan” by his opponents. Then in 2020, he called Osama Bin Laden a martyr, attracting condemnation from many quarters. He also strengthened ties with the communist China, though traditionally Pakistan has been an ally of the West. The country recently abstained in the UN vote on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, earning more ire from the West. Its relations with rival India have also not improved under the Khan-led regime. 

Khan’s antagonistic brand of politics and his unwillingness to build political consensus, especially in Pakistan’s largest province Punjab, has not helped the matters. It seems the Punjab Chief Minister is unpopular among his own party members. Opposition, of course, wants Khan out. Three political parties and the opposition formed an alliance in 2020 and have been trying for this end since then. 

But as per political observers, Khan’s major issue is that he has fallen out of favour with the influential military generals. Many other political figures in Pakistan in the past have faced a similar situation. In fact, no Pakistan Prime Minister has ever completed the full five-year term. Though the Pakistan military says that it is neutral with regards to this issue, the fact of the matter is that Khan’s relationship with the military has cooled. He made the situation worse for himself by making a shocking comment at the military. “Humans are not neutral, they take the side of good or evil; only animals are neutral,” he said during a speech. Another point of contention between Khan and the military is the recent appointment of the new ISI chief. Khan reportedly dragged his feet over the candidate chosen by the army, which miffed the military. The outgoing ISI chief, a Khan loyalist, had helped him secure the 2018 election.

Then, under Khan’s rule, Pakistan distanced itself from the US. The Pakistan PM is yet to receive a phone call from the US’s new President, Joe Biden. At the same time, the country seems to be getting closer to China and Russia; Khan recently visited both the countries. This is not a stance that the Pakistani military condones. Clearly, Khan’s political career is in a soup. He is so desperate to save his position that he even praised the Indian government for its independent foreign policy and the Indian Army for not being corrupt. Further, he claimed that the no-confidence motion against him was an international conspiracy and that he has a “secret letter” to prove it. The situation turned embarrassing for him later when the Islamabad High Court barred him from making this letter public.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Khan was running from pillar to post to win back his allies. On March 10, he went to Karachi to meet spiritual leader Pir Pagara. The current Pir, Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, is a powerful political entity, with close links to the Pakistan military. At least 50,000 of his over 900,000 devotees serve in positions reserved for them in the Pakistani Army and provincial police.  

The Pir, a member of the Pakistan National Assembly, also heads the family’s political party, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, which got 1 million votes in the 2018 elections and now his party is a coalition partner in the government.  As per an insider, “Pir is totally a GHQ (Pakistan Army headquarters) man like many other rich politicians in Imran Khan’s party. He will do what the military establishment will ask him to do. It is true that he has not been happy with Imran Khan for the last few months.”
Khan’s last ditch effort, however, was in vain as the spiritual leader refused to meet him, citing ill health. Meanwhile, other allies in Sindh, such as Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, are also not happy with him.

President of the opposition party PML-N, Shehbaz Sharif, has even alleged that Khan  resorted to “witchcraft” and was burning tons of chickens at his residence to save his government. At the same time, as per sources, the opposition parties are taking advantage of the “internal rifts” in the ruling party and luring its members away from Khan by promising them popular party tickets in the next elections. Just days ago, two more lawmakers quit the ruling alliance, bringing the strength of the opposition to 170. Meanwhile, Khan even told his party members to either abstain or not attend the National Assembly session on the day of voting. He has also moved the court to seek bans against defectors to discourage potential dissidents. In spite of all his efforts, he could not face no confidence motion and has recommended for dissolution to pave the way for fresh general election.

READ MORE: Neighbourhood woes

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SPECIAL: The Plight Of Pakistan

The selected prime minister is also facing exit without completing his term. The country which is going to celebrate 75th Independence Day on August 14 is a state ready to fail due to corruption and inner contradictions … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has initiated proceedings against retired four-star General Ahsan Saleem Hayat and senior officials of a logistics organisation.  The allegation against him was that he was running an illegal crude oil business that caused a loss of Rs. PKR 20 million per day to the national exchequer.

 The case of running an illegal crude oil business had led to the dismissal of 17 officers by the military authorities on January 26, 2005.  Another case against Ex-Major Akaram Raza was filed for running an illegal oil business.  Raza petitioned in 2015 before the Lahore High Court (LHC) that he was a ‘whistle blower’ and not a party to the crime and that National Logistics Cell (NLC) administration kept on pressurizing him to cooperate with the crude oil mafia and failing which threatened with dire consequences.  The LHC directed the NAB  in 2019 to proceed in this case in accordance with the law.

The episodes of corruption cases against the officials of Pak armed forces are cropping up one by one.  The recent (March 2022) leak of data from Credit Swiss, a Swiss investment bank, has again brought to light the extent to which greed and corruption run amok in the Pakistan Army, especially among the Generals.  A report from the bank has implicated the Ex-ISI Chief, General Akhtar Abdur Rehman Khan, who reportedly helped funnel billions of dollars, in cash and other aid from the United States and other countries to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan to support their fight against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.  The Times of Israel claimed that the leaked documents touch only the tip of the icebergs as far as how much the top Generals of the Pakistan Army skimmed in the name of the Holy War against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The report asserted that the motto of the Pakistan army officers seems to be “Greed is God”.   There are innumerable scandals and sordid stories of financial bungling, bribery, extortion, influence peddling by serving and retired Generals for personal profit.  There are also reports of their involvement in smuggling rackets and narcotics trafficking.

It is not new.  In the 1990s, then Army Chief Aslam Beg and ISI Chief Asad Durrani proposed to start their own narcotics business to fund the ‘jihad’ against India and Afghanistan, as also other parts of the world.  It is suspected that many Pakistani Generals and bureaucrats have had secret Swiss Bank accounts with some of these accounts getting closed later because the money was either moved elsewhere or invested in business or property. The report cited the example of General Rehman’s sons who are one of the richest families in Pakistan with vast business interests.  Another example is Army Chief General Ashfaq Kiyani’s brothers involved in a multi-billion rupee housing scandal in Islamabad.

A Quetta corps commander Lt. Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa was called by the name “General Papa Jones” or “General Pizza” after an expose of his millions of dollar investment in Papa Jones Pizza Chain in the US and lucrative contract was given to his son while he was serving as the head of Inter-Service Public Relations (IBPR).  The same kind of allegations had been posted against former army chief Raheel Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf for amassing illegal property by using their clout.

Pakistan state has three power centres namely, the elected government, the Armed forces and Pak intelligence agency, the ISIS, all of them claiming that they could sacrifice everything for the country.  Reality is that they have together sacrificed their own ‘conscience’ and ‘character’ on one hand and people’s interest on the other

Pakistan state has three power centres namely, the elected government, the Armed forces and the Pak intelligence agency, the ISIS, all of them claiming that they could sacrifice everything for the country.  The reality is that they have together sacrificed their own ‘conscience’ and ‘character’ on one hand and people’s interests on the other. 

The Pakistan state is an agglomeration of unscrupulous interest groups which are more interested in extracting personal rentals from power, while Pak people are being denied even the basic minimum needs of life. Jihad has become a veil under which all the powerful people including state and non-state actors in Pakistan are betraying their own people.

 The economy is on the verge of collapse and democracy is under threat due to conflict among the power centres.  Imran Khan is at the exit door.  Who comes next in the reign in the state, which is waiting to fail, is being watched with curiosity. However, it is doubtful that things would change as long as the state is not separated from the influence of armed forces and the ISI.  

READ MORE: Fix responsibility on Pakistan for 1971 Bangladesh genocide