Third gender and the poll vault in Pakistan


 | Apr 16, 2013, 05.17 AM IST

If, in the run-up to the general elections in Pakistan, you haven’t heard of a candidate by the name of Bindiya Rana, I won’t hold it against you. Centre-stage characters - Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, and the new-ish kid on the block, Imran Khan, have devoured much of the media space. Yet, it is folks like Rana who are leading a quiet, potential cultural revolution amidst the madness of electioneering as Pakistan readies for a fresh round of timely elections.

And just who is Bindiya Rana ? She heads the Gender Interactive Alliance, an NGO that acts on behalf of the transgender community, better known in Pakistan as the Khwaja Sira community or less pleasantly to the rest of South Asia as the hijra community. Both Rana and Sanam Fakir, president of the Sanam Welfare Association in Sukkur, will be the first transgender people to be running for elections in Pakistan. Both are vying provincial assembly seats on strong anti-corruption mandates, and promise that new legislation – that has given them the power to vote, will bring in hundreds, if not thousands of new voters from their community.

The legal credit goes to the supreme court of Pakistan, which accorded the Khwaja Sira a right to a third-gender category and the ability to record-it-as-it-is in newly issued National Registration and Database Authority stamped identity cards. In November 2011, the SC ordered the election commission to collect data on the community and register them to vote.

Of course, not all is rosy in this contested space. For one thing, despite the SC order, less than a third of the country’s presumed 500,000-strong transgender community have been given ID cards. There are also a number of representative bodies that differ on how the community should be identified; in addition to the two organizations mentioned above, there are the Shemale Foundation of Pakistan and the All Pakistan Eunuch’s Association.

What’s got the entire legal apparatus working out the rights of one small community when suppression of all others seems to be the norm? Could it be fear of an impending bane or the lust for a big, badass boon?

For a healthy does of reality, we turn to Bihar. It turns out that since 2000, efficient local tax collectors discovered that hiring hijras as contract tax collectors could significantly enhance their collection rate. The idea worked – and those who would normally shut the door on the mid-level revenue official – coughed up their dues when confronted by the embarrassment of a public spectacle right outside their elite homes. For their good offices, the participating hijras received 4% of all collections.

Inspired by their South Asian brethren, the folks in the income tax offices in Pakistan found this to be a good, if not brilliant, idea. The result would have the direct benefit of extracting revenue for the state, and the side one of distracting the community from sex work. The only difference in the approaches – and an important one – is that in Pakistan, official jobs – with benefits – were created for the Khwaja Sira folks. I wonder, however, what the job position is titled. Can you apply if you’re not from the community? In any case, the tactic seems to be working from the point of view of state revenue earnings.

Normally Scroogish folks rush over to pull out 1,000 rupee notes sewn into their mattress springs in the hope that the hijra – known to have spiritual powers endorsed in the once-syncretistic traditions of this region – will dance, clap and sing showering boons over banes.

The writer is a Delhi-based Pakistani journalist

 

 

NA adopts resolution to declare #Malala ‘Daughter of Pakistan’


APP9 hrs ago

Malala Yousufzai-2

ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution asking the government to declare Malala Yousufzai the ‘Daughter of Pakistan’. The resolution was moved by Pakistan People’s Party’s Robina Saadat Qaimkhani, who said Malala had become a role model for child education across the world. “This House gives great importance and significance to the sacrifice made by Malala Yousufzai for the sake of education. This House, therefore, recommends that Malala Yousufzai may be declared the Daughter of Pakistan,” the resolution said. Qaimkhani said owing to her struggle for promotion of peace and girls’ education, Malala deserved an applause and a special recognition from parliament. She also lauded the role of President Asif Ali Zardari in promoting child education in the country.

 

Suspect’s sister apologizes for shooting of Malala


Rehana Haleem (left), who has apologised to Malala Yousafzai

Source: Independent | Andrew Buncombe

The sister of a man suspected of being involved in the shooting of the Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai has apologised for the attack, saying her brother has brought shame upon the family.

In an interview with a television channel conducted in the Swat Valley, Rehana Haleem said that the teenager who had fought for the right of young girls to be educated was like a “sister” to her. Her brother, 23-year-old Attah Ullah Khan, is one of three people police have indicated they are looking for in connection with the attack.

“Please convey a message to Malala, that I apologise for what my brother did to her,” Ms Haleem told CNN. “He has brought shame on our family.”

The young woman added: “What he did was intolerable. Malala is just like my sister. I’d like to express my concern for Malala on behalf of my whole family; I hope she recovers soon and returns to a happy and normal life as soon as possible.”

Malala, 15, was shot on 9 October as she and her classmates were on their school bus in the Swat Valley, which was under the control of the Taliban between 2007-09. Gunmen leapt aboard and demanded that the youngsters identify Malala. Three girls were shot – two of her friends who suffered non-lethal injuries and Malala herself who was struck by a bullet that passed through skin on her head and lodged in her shoulder. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility.

Amid the subsequent outcry, the Taliban sought to justify its actions, saying Malala had engaged with Western elements. They also blamed the media for its “negative” coverage of the shooting.

Malala, who first came to public notice when at the age of 11 she wrote an anonymous diary for the BBC during the period the Taliban held control of the Swat Valley, was rushed to hospital where doctors operated to stabilise her and to remove the bullet. Once it became clear she would require extensive rehabilitation she was flown to Britain, where she is undergoing treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

It was reported this week that Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, spoke with officials at the hospital for an update on the teenager’s condition and was told she was gradually improving.

Ms Haleem told CNN that security forces searched the family home a day after the attack and that the family was detained. She was pregnant and was subsequently released but her husband and other relatives remain in custody. Speaking from Warhi Mast Malik Abad, a village on the outskirts of the city of Mingora, where the attack on Malala took place, she said she had little doubt that her brother was involved in the shooting.

“If he was innocent, he would have come back and claimed he was innocent,” she said. “His behaviour is that of a guilty man. How could he abandon us?” Police said last month that they had arrested six men in connection with the shooting but were still searching for Mr Khan.

 

Pakistan’s human rights review: Internet censorship comes under scrutiny


Published: November 3, 2012

Netherlands asks Islamabad to remove restrictions on internet access. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: As part of a review of Pakistan’s human rights standing, the Netherlands has recommended that Pakistan remove restrictions on internet access.

The recommendation is part of a draft report of the UN Human Rights Council working group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan.

In the draft report, released on November 2, the working group has listed this demand along with 163 other recommendations on the country’s rights record.

The video sharing site, YouTube, has been suspended in Pakistan since September 17, 2012.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered the ban over a blasphemous movie trailer that incited protests around the world.

It is the fourth time the site has been banned since 2008.

Second review

Pakistan presented its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report in the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, October 30. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar defended Pakistan’s progress since the last review in 2008. The Review, created in 2006, takes place every four years and is a state-driven process.

Pakistan will have to respond to the recommendations by March 2013 at the 22nd session of the Council. The response will then be included in the outcome report adopted by the Council in that session.

“It is a great opportunity as it is now part of UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations to the government and we can continue to build pressure on the government to do better on net freedom in the country,” said Shahzad Ahmad from Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan, a human rights organisation that focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social justice and development in the country.

Ahmad presented a shadow report along with two UN accredited international NGOs, Association for Progressive Communications and Freedom House.

“This is first time ever that a shadow report on internet rights in Pakistan was submitted and a UN member state picked it up and put it as a recommendation for the government to improve internet rights in the country,” he wrote to The Express Tribune in an email from Geneva.

Internet-based human rights

Netherlands made the recommendation that Pakistan “(r)emove restrictions on accessing internet in the country, which runs counter to the criteria of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and the principle of proportionality.”

Internet-based human right issues were not part of Pakistan’s first review in 2008. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the ICCPR in June 2010 and made Pakistan signatory to the law which commits it to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to a fair trial.

 

 

Pakistani doctors remove bullet from girl shot by Taliban #vaw


By Jibran Ahmad | Reuters – 51 mins ago

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani surgeons removed a bullet on Wednesday from a 14-year-old girl shot by the Taliban for speaking out against the militants and promoting education for girls, doctors said.

Malala Yousufzai was in critical condition after gunmen shot her in the head and neck on Tuesday as she left school. Two other girls were also wounded.

Yousufzai began standing up to the Pakistani Taliban when she was just 11, when the government had effectively ceded control of the Swat Valley where she lives to the militants.

Her courage made her a national hero and many Pakistanis were shocked by her shooting.

General Ashfaq Kayani, chief of Pakistan’s powerful army, visited her in hospital and condemned her attackers.

“The cowards who attacked Malala and her fellow students, have shown time and again how little regard they have for human life and how low they can fall in their cruel ambition to impose their twisted ideology,” Kayani said in a statement.

The military said it had a simple message, which it wrote in capital letters in the statement to add emphasis: “WE REFUSE TO BOW BEFORE TERROR.”

Doctors said they were forced to begin operating in the middle of the night after Yousufzai developed swelling in the left portion of her brain.

They removed a bullet from her body near her spinal cord during a three-hour operation that they finished at about 5 a.m. (0000 GMT).

“She is still unconscious and kept in the intensive care unit,” said Mumtaz Khan, head of a team of doctors taking care of Yousufzai in a military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

One of the girls wounded with Yousufzai is in critical condition and the other is recovering and out of danger.

The military flew Yousufzai from her home in Swat, northwest of Islamabad, to Peshawar on Tuesday.

The shooting was denounced across Pakistan. The front pages of national newspapers carried pictures of a bandaged and bloody Yousufzai being brought to hospital.

“Hate targets hope” the Express Tribune said in a headline.

Schools closed across Swat in protest over the shooting and a small demonstration was held in her hometown of Mingora. Another was planned in the eastern city of Lahore for later on Wednesday.

“All Pakistanis should come together and raise their voices against such acts. If they do not do this, then they should mentally prepare themselves for their own children’s fate to be like Malala’s,” said Saeeda Diep, an organizer of the Lahore protest.

Many commentators said Yousufzai’s courage contrasted with that of many of the country’s leaders, who fear that challenging militants will make them targets.

“PEACE WILL BE SHAKEN”

Pakistan’s president, prime minister, and heads of various opposition parties joined human rights group Amnesty International and the United Nations in condemning the attack.

“Pakistan’s future belongs to Malala and brave young girls like her. History won’t remember the cowards who tried to kill her at school,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Twitter.

The attack was also condemned by many leaders of ethnic Pashtun tribes in northwest Pakistan.

“This attack is against Pashtun and Islamic practices,” said Khurshid Kaka Ji, leader of a jirga, or tribal council, in Swat, a one-time tourist destination of peaks and meadows where the military has battled the Taliban intermittently since 2007.

“The security forces and police deployed should capture the attackers and punish them. If they do not catch these people, then the peace that Swat has gained through bloodshed will be shaken.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack saying Yousufzai was “pro-West”, had been promoting Western culture and had been speaking out against them.

They justified shooting her by citing instances from the Koran when a child or woman was killed.

“Any female that, by any means, plays a role in the war against mujahideen should be killed,” said Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan, using the term for Islamic holy warriors to refer to the Taliban.

“We are dead against co-education and a secular education system.”

President Asif Ali Zardari said he had directed that Yousufzai be sent abroad for medical care.

A special aircraft had been sent to Peshawar in case doctors say she should be moved to the United Arab Emirates, said Zaibullah Khan, general manager of the city’s airport.

Imran Khan, a former cricketer turned politician who recently led a march into northwestern Pakistan protesting against U.S. drone strikes, said he was willing to pay for Yousufzai’s medical treatment in Pakistan or abroad.

“Brave girl. Praying for her recovery,” he said on Twitter.

(Additional reporting by Kathari

Sarabjit, Kirpal may get life as Pak commutes death penalties #goodnews


 

, TNN | Aug 13, 2012, 05.25AM IST

AMRITSAR: The Pakistan government has provided a fresh lease of life to Indian death row prisoners Sarabjit Singh and Kirpal Singh when it began the process of commuting all death sentences into life imprisonment.

According to Pakistan’s former federal minister for human rights Ansar Burney, it’s for the first time that Pakistan has taken such a step. The move comes four years after former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani had announced to commute all death sentences into life imprisonment.

Burney told TOI on Sunday over the phone from Khartoum in Sudan, where he is on a humanitarian mission, that Pakistan government has sought advice from relevant ministries and provincial authorities by Monday, August 13.

He said that Ansar Burney Trust International had also filed several petitions with President Asif Ali Zardari requesting that all death sentences be commuted to life imprisonments considering that a large number of those condemned to death were either innocent or had spent decades awaiting death.

Gilani had announced during an address to the national assembly on June 21 2008, soon after assuming office, that his government would take a proposal to the presidency to convert all death penalties into life-terms. Burney informed that over 7,500 prisoners in Pakistani jails were on death row.

“Many are innocent and victims of false testimonies or circumstances like Sarabjit and Kirpal. Hundreds are now physically and mentally disabled due to decades of imprisonment in the harshest conditions,” Burney said.

ABOVE– kirpal caught in 1991 and today

 

Endless wait for return of a ‘martyr’ from Pakistan


Gautam Dheer, Apr 28, 2012 : Deccan Herald —For over three decades, 61-year old and ailing Angrez Kaur lived a life in tremulous dilemma unsure if her husband was alive or if she was a widow. 

Angrez Kaur with her son Amrik Singh (left) and grandson Ramandeep Singh.Her son Amrik Singh has only seen his father Surjit Kumar, a Border Security Force constable, in pictures hung on the walls in the house.

He was barely a month-old when Surjit went ‘missing’ in the 1971 war with Pakistan from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.

He was a Prisoner of War (Pow) in Pakistan. Three years after the war, the BSF declared Singh dead, a martyr in records.

But then the unexpected happened.

Indian prisoners repatriated from Pakistan jails in 2004 revealed that Surjit Singh was still alive and languishing in a Pakistan jail. Seven years later, the family’s endless wait for Surjit to return continues.

Kaur and his son Amrik have little choice but to cling on to hope of being one with Singh in this lifetime. BSF records still read him as a martyr and the Indian authorities haven’t been able to make tangible headway to secure the release of a martyr”.

“It has been over 40 years of pain. It’s not entirely impossible to reconcile with the loss of a loved one if you are sure of it. But it’s the prolonged uncertainty over your husband’s life that haunts me everyday,’’ Kaur said.

Ferozepur resident Satish Kumar Marwaha vouches for the fact that Surijit is alive. Surjit and Satish were in the same barrack for several years until Satish was released from a Pakistan jail.

But Surjit’s family hasn’t given up. And hope comes from Pakistan’s former
Federal Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney.

Amrik and his uncle Dr Ajay Mehra, a medical practitioner in Faridkot, met Burney a few days ago. Hope rekindled after Burney assured them of all possible help to secure Surjit’s release.

Talking to Deccan Herald, Amrik said:

“ My mother at times gets up past midnight and wants me to talk to her about my father. She feels happy when I tell her that her prayers will be heard soon. She tells me to visit every Baba (godman) who comes to the village.’’

Kaur’s marriage was just two years old when her world fell apart after Surjit Singh went missing.

All she was then told by the BSF that her husband could have been captured as a PoW by Pakistan, or perhaps, may have even died in gunfire. His fate was sealed in 1974 when the BSF officially declared him dead, a martyr in their records.

Burney has been pursuing the matter in Pakistan since last year. In fact, it was Burney who called up Surjit’s family last year to reconfirm that the Indian soldier was alive and in a jail. Singh was awarded death penalty as a PoW in Pakistan. But, his sentence was eventually converted into life imprisonment.

All these decades he was kept at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. His jail term ended in December last year, said sources. The family has repeatedly taken up the matter with the BSF. The organisation says it has held meetings with the Pakistani Rangers to facilitate Singh’s deportation.

After Surjit did not return from the border and news of Surjit going missing poured in, Kaur returned to her parents in Faridkot town in Punjab. Kaur chose not to remarry. Amrik said, he has appro­ached all agencies for help, but his father still languishes in Pakistan jail.

The Ministry of External Affairs had told Kaur in August 2005 that the BSF had taken up the matter with the Pakistan Rangers in October 2004. But nothing worked out.
Burney said he would meet Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani for the early release of Surjit.

Angrez Kaur recalls the ordeal when her husband went missing in 1971. The government told her that Surjit went missing on December 3, 1971 night from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.

“Amrik was in my lap when my world crashed. Nobody was sure where my husband was. Something kept my belief that my husband was alive, despite the BSF formally declaring him dead in 1974. His photographs are the only memories. My son Amrik has picked up photography to make a living,” Kaur said.

Ashes of Indians in Pakistan

Ashes of at least 53 Indians, who died languishing in Pakistan jails, are still kept in Pakistan prisons.

The revelation was made by Ansar Burney during his recent visit to India last week.

Burney said he will take up the matter with the Pakistan government so that the ashes are brought to India and last rites can be performed by families here.

Activist asks India, Pak to mend ties


Jaipur, April 13 2012, DHNS:

Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney on Friday demanded tangible action from India and Pakistan to mend their strained relation and prove that the recent meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari was not another futile do.

Burney said the governments of the two countries should soon do away with city specific visa system and issue country visas that would enable visitors to move around freely, thus enhancing people to people contact.

Speaking to the media on his way to Ajmer to meet Khalil Chisthi, the Pakistani scientist who was jailed in the country for the last 20 years, Burney said: “Chishti’s release would go a long way in the release of similar prisoners languishing in the jails of both countries.”

He added that a number of persons held captive in both countries for espionage were fishermen who strayed into foreign shores unintentionally.

Speaking on Sarabjeet Singh, an Indian facing death penalty in Pakistan, Burney said: “His petition for reverting death to life imprisonment with the Pakistani president may see the light of day.” Burney is Singh’s lawyer.

He however said Singh and Chisthi’s cases were different. While Chishti was a co-accused in a brawl that led to death of a person, charges levelled against Singh were far more serious.

“The Pakistani Supreme court had upheld his death sentence but it was delayed for the last 22 years that comes to his favour. After such a long sentence in a death cell, handing out death penalty is a serious human rights violation, he said,” Burney said.

Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur and daughter Swapandeep also accompanied Burney to Ajmer.

Recently when Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari visited India on a “pilgrimage visit”, octogenarian Pakistani scientist Chishti was released on “humanitarian grounds”.

The grapevine had it that it could pave the way for the release of Sarabjeet Singh too after the noble gesture shown by the neighbouring country.

A Sufi message from a Pakistani President


Saeed Naqvi, April 9,2012, The Hindu

Asif Ali Zardari must be applauded for choosing to visit the shrine of Chishti at Ajmer at a time of rising extremism in India and Pakistan.

That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Pakistan at a suitable time is important news, of course. But, put it down to my personal bias if you like, the loftier symbolism of the visit lies elsewhere. The appearance of such a large Pakistani delegation at the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti’s shrine in Ajmer will strike a chord with an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis who are more comfortable with the soft, humane message of the Sufis compared with the vengefulness that Hafiz Saeed represents.

Disconcertingly, his ratings in Pakistan have shot up in an atmosphere of high voltage anti-Americanism. In this atmosphere, an American bounty even on the head of the devil would give him championship in the popularity stakes. That is why Mr. Zardari’s Ajmer mission deserves applause.

Contrary to popular perception, the rapid spread of Islam across the length and breadth of India was primarily the handiwork of Sufis. At a time when Rahul Gandhi and his cohorts are wondering how to win friends and influence people, the Sufis offer an excellent model. For the model to gain traction, the first requirement is a message which can be simply put across. The message the Sufis sought to communicate offended nobody: oneness of Being (Wahdat ul Wajood), equality of men, Love as a universal value.
Egalitarian

Rungs of the stratified Hindu order found the egalitarianism of Sufi Khanqahs, ashrams, hospices, compelling. The first-time visitors to the hospice were overwhelmed by the hospitality. The cuisine was custom made for universal consumption. It was not just vegetarian but care was taken to avoid garlic and onion too which some Hindu sects abstain from.

If there was one dogma the Sufis lived by, it was their total aversion to Kings and Sultans or those who sat at the top of the feudal heap. Since they would not visit the Sultans as a matter of principle, there were instances of the rulers who, overawed by the saint’s boundless popularity, expressed a desire to visit them at their hospices.

“If the King enters from the front gate, I shall leave by the backdoor” Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia once famously said. They lived by the Biblical dictum: it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. So, the poor and the intellectually precocious flocked to them.

It was not just their charming temperament, demeanour and belief which attracted the people to them. It was part of their spiritual training to harmonise totally with the cultural environment of whichever place they had made their home. They accepted and adopted the local culture.

Their contribution therefore to folk, popular and classical art forms was immense. For instance, Hazrat Amir Khusro, principal disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, invented the sitar, tabla, ragas. And, by experimental fusion of Hindvi and Persian, he virtually laid the foundation of what later came to be recognised as Urdu. For popular participation, there were always the Qawwalis, with trance inducing rhythms deftly employed between spiritual and romantic lyrics.

It was in pursuance of the trend set by the Sufis that every great Urdu poet proceeded to strengthen sub-continental syncretism. Hasrat Mohani always followed up his “haj” by a visit to Barsana for a “darshan” of Radha, because it was a belief he fancied that God had sent prophets to every country and the one he sent to India was Lord Krishna! It can only happen in the subcontinent: Maulana Hasrat Mohani was a member of the Communist Party and a member of the Constituent Assembly. He refused to sign the Constitution because it was “anti-people”. He is an icon in modern Urdu ghazal. The famous ghazal sung by Mallika Pukhraj, “bezubaani zubaan na ho jai” (hark! Silence begins to have voice) is the Maulana’s composition.

Quite naturally, the rapid expansion of this spectacular, colourful Islam, far removed from the arid rigidity of Najd in Saudi Arabia, invited a puritanical reaction.

There were one or two schools of Sufism, like the one to which Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi belonged and which deviated towards puritanism divorced from the colours of India. He was principally opposed to Moghul Emperor Akbar’s effort at forging Din-e-elahi or a common religion of God. Later, Shah Waliullah opposed the syncretic excess which leaned too much on the arts, music and dance as a path towards spirituality.

Darul Uloom at Deoband became the centre for puritanical reform within Islam. The effort to bring the faithful back to the straight and narrow continues. Unfortunately, politicians in search of vote banks find Deoband and one or two Imams of mosques, the only Muslim middlemen they know.

These institutions have been plodding away for decades. However, it was the war on terror painting Muslims as terrorists which generated anger in the community, enabling Deoband to marginally augment its reservoir.

By and large, Islam in Afghanistan, Kashmir, North West Frontier Province, other parts of Pakistan and India has, for years, been cloaked in colours of Sufism. But it was the manufacture of Wahabism in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union which was at the bottom of recent Islamic upheavals, of which 9/11and its aftermath are landmarks.
Islamic extremism

Basically, a strand of Islamic extremism has been in Pakistan’s DNA since the country’s inception but it was only a strand. The Munir Commission in 1953 investigated what is true Islam and came to no conclusion. But a backlash from the Afghan war reached its crescendo with the fall of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in 2007. Extremism has remained on a plateau since, helped by U.S. policies and the military establishment in equal measure.

Hafiz Saeed is currently the most high profile representative of this extremism which is linked to Wahabism first manufactured in Afghanistan in 1980. In India, Deoband is a harmless reform school. But in Pakistan, Deobandi/Salafi alliance is embarked on a vicious Jehad for the soul of the nation.

It is for this reason that Mr. Zardari’s pilgrimage to Ajmer has symbolic value for Pakistan and beyond.

(The writer is a senior journalist, television commentator and interviewer.)

Indian Supreme Court- Why Pakistanis in jail if sentence over ?


New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed its anguish at mentally challenged and deaf-mute foreign nationals, mostly Pakistanis, who continued to languish in Indian jails long after completing their sentence and asked why the issue could “not be taken up at the highest level”.

Voicing deep concern over mentally unsound Pakistani nationals languishing in Indian jails even after completion of their sentences, the Supreme Court today asked the government why they should not be repatriated, saying such detention “pains us”. A bench headed by Justice R.M.Lodha said such matters should be taken up on priority basis and at the highest level when the top authorities of the two nations meet.

The bench was referring to 21 prisoners, 16 of whom are mentally unsound and five are deaf and dumb and are languishing in jail despite serving out their sentences.

“Should not such matters be taken up at the highest level when the heads of the state meet ?,” the bench asked while indirectly referring to the recent visit of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to India.

The court asked the Centre to find out in three weeks what can be done for sending back these prisoners to their country and posted the matter for further hearing on May 2.

“There is no doubt that the best of facilities are being provided to such prisoners in detention centre but the problem is why they are not being repatriated. What is the impediment? Such detention pains us,” the bench said.

“Top most priority has to be given to these cases. They are mentally unsound and deaf and dumb. They have served out their sentences. They have been kept in jail because of some problem but that cannot be an indefinite exercise,” the bench said.

The Centre contended that these people cannot be sent back without their identification being proved.

The bench then said, “How would you be able to do so even after six months or one year. Problem would continue. You must tell us what should be done.”

The court was hearing a PIL filed by J&K Panthers Party leader Prof. Bhim Singh seeking its direction to the Centre for repatriation of Pakistani prisoners lodged in various jails across the country even after completion of their sentences.

Mr. Singh submitted that photographs of these prisoners should be given by the Centre to the Pakistani government so that these could be published in newspapers there to prove their identification as they are mentally unsound.

The court, however, said that there is no problem in directing the Centre to give these photographs but it cannot compel Pakistani government to publish those pictures.

“The Centre cannot compel the Pakistan High Commission. Only some suggestions can be given. The lead has to be taken up by the Pakistan High Commission,” the bench said.

It further said that the prisoners cannot be sent without verifying their identification which could prove to be the worst situation for them.

As additional solicitor general PP Malhota sought more time so that he could sit with the petitioner, senior counsel Bhim Singh, the court adjourned the hearing till May 2.

IANS, PTI