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A threat to Dalits’ existence


Mahathma Gandhi said: “Untouchability is a crime against God and men”. He called untouchables by the name of ‘HARIJANS’ meaning Children of God and fought for their emancipation. In 1949, Govt. of India made it a criminal offense to practice untouchability. But it has not changed much in the lives of people who belong to the lower caste in Hindu society. Not that Gandhi’s ideology and struggle lacked passion and resilience, but the Hindus were more strong and committed to not let go of the material gains and pompousness the caste system gave them.

This mindset travels through the borders and affects Hindus in Pakistan to a degree where it is a threat to their existence and identity. Dalit representatives in a meeting of the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network discussed the monopoly of upper caste Hindus when it comes to reserved seats in the assembly. The system originated in India has been unconsciously accepted and followed by people of this country and the political parties give an opportunity to upper caste Hindus to step into politics.

The concerns shared by the Scheduled Caste Rights Movement Pakistan, Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, and the Upgrade Minorities for Integrated Development cannot be ignored, especially when the population of the scheduled castes is much higher than that of the upper caste Hindus.

The meeting has highlighted another major issue that Dalit families face when they get themselves registered under the category of Hindus even when there is a separate category for the scheduled caste. The fear of Dalit representatives is genuine that this trend will further decrease the number of Dalits here in Pakistan which is around 2 million today. Their demand for a share in employment, scholarships, national resources, development schemes and parliament to be raised has a reason which is a threat to their existence. The whole effort is based on an initiative to secure the coming generation which will be proud Dalits, rather not someone who have been isolated since centuries because of people who have a strong social acceptance.

Pakistanis have unluckily never understood the ideology behind the creation of this country and that reflects in the treatment given to people like Dalits who have to fight against the same caste system India has been following blindly. It shows that even this country, which fought against India in 1947 as a minority, has nothing to offer to Hindus who live here. Their all struggle and ideology died soon after they have achieved an independent country–Pakistan.

To understand Dalits’ situation, Pakistanis should put themselves in their shoes to imagine what would have happened if this minority did not succeed in 1947. An equal opportunity to Hindus regardless of their caste is the route Pakistanis should take in order to stay committed to their base in Islam, which is equality.

Express Tribune

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Hindus

 

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Blasphemy convict’s death in jail sparks suspicion


Those accused of blasphemy have no present and future in this country and that has been determined so far. The weak social and political existence and representation of minorities in Pakistan and poor economic conditions have made them more vulnerable to victimisation. Their legal status , one could determine through the most controversial  blasphemy laws targetting them since decades. The wave of extremism has furhere squeezed their breathing space and after the assassinations of Punjab Gvernor Salman Taseer and Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, the world has come to know that any vooice that speaks truth and stands with justice is ought to be crushed. Prior to these assassinations, our minorities were living in a constant fear with a little hope, but the recent death of Qamar David, a Christian serving a life sentence in two blasphemy cases, told us that their life in prison is not safe even.

His family suspected it to be a murder and they have infinite reasons to believe that. Why would we believe the jail authorities or the medical report when the whole society has denied them their rights including their right to life. In blasphemy cases, even our courts here are reluctant to decide the cases due to threats and social pressure. The accused spend their whole lfe in prison waiting for justice and anyone other than the authorities take the law in their hands in the name of religion. The assassins of Taseer and Bhatti are our heroes and similarly those who kill people like David are the protectors of Islam who are above law.

Calling for inquiry is the only thing the rights group can do, but we all know that this country has not learnt to respect human life and protect its own citizens. The extremism which is ruining the country and people is what we have asked for.  What goes around comes around. Those who do not learn pay the price.

Below is the story:
Express Tribune

KARACHI: Fifty-five-year-old Qamar David, a Christian serving a life sentence in two blasphemy cases, died on Tuesday of what jailers say was a heart attack but his family suspects it was murder.

David was being kept at Central Jail, Karachi. “My husband had no disease,” his wife Tabassum told The Express Tribune. “He informed me about receiving threats from someone in jail after the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti.” Jail Deputy Superintendent Raja Mumtaz refuted these claims. “No one killed him,” he said. “He died of a heart attack.” He was taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi where he died while being treated.

A postmortem will be held today in the presence of his family, a magistrate and the police surgeon. Two cases of blasphemy were registered against him in the Saddar and Azizabad police stations in 2006 and one attempted murder case was registered by the Sir Syed police station. The victim’s family also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court where they challenged the life imprisonment. The attempted murder case was being heard.

David, who hailed from a town near Lahore, used to live in Lines Area and used to run a small business.

Background

On February 25, 2010, Additional District and Sessions Judge Jangu Khan found Qamar David guilty of blasphemy. The judge sentenced David to life imprisonment under Sections 295A and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, based on claims made by business rivals. He was accused of sending text messages which contained derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Christian human rights groups have demanded that a committee investigate the causes of the death.

The Catholic Bishop of  Islamabad/Rawalpindi Rufin Anthony conveyed his condolences to David’s family and said, “I am in grief, the whole Christian community has been grieving for the past few days. We haven’t recovered from the loss and this news has increased my concerns about the future of Christians in Pakistan. David was falsely accused of blasphemy. How much more blood do we still have to see to realise that the blasphemy laws need to be abolished? How much blood does the government wants to have on its hands? Another sad day for the minorities in Pakistan.”

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Debate with extremists in a non-confrontational way?


Karachi Literary Festival

In today’s world, Pakistan is known for all the possible bad reasons. The wave of terrorism and extremism, which was nurtured and well protected by Gen Zia, is  now damaging our homes. How many more to loose their lives is a question which remains unanswered especially after the assassination of Salman Taseer.

Who will be the next to stand up like him and support a victim of intolerance and extremism? Again I have no names in my mind after Sherry Rehman has withdrawn the bill to amend blasphemy laws. Now is silence acceptable or are we going to speak out?
It can be the strategy which is not being productive. I, somehow, agreed to what Karen Armstrong has suggested at Karachi Literary Festival. To a question on how are you going to convince Mumtaz Qadri, she said, “debate with them in a non-confrontational way rather attacking their belief system”.

I am not at all sure that it will work 100 per cent, but the options are already not many to deal with this extremism. It is just to try out anything that pops up and carries logic.

Below is the story:
Express Tribune

KARACHI: At the Karachi Literature Festival, Karen Armstrong laid out a charter of compassion, with the dangers of an overpowering ego at the centre of her argument.

With a packed hall of people eagerly listening, the session began with a question posed by moderator Abbas Husain: if compassion is the prescription for the symptoms of the disease that is intolerance, then what is the cause of the disease? Without a moment’s hesitation, Armstrong answered: “Ego”.

It is ego, argues Armstrong, that makes us place ourselves and our beliefs at the centre of the universe. It is that same ego that then causes us to degrade and denigrate the beliefs and arguments of others, that makes us enter debates not with the intention of learning from them, but with the aim of proving the other wrong and ourselves right.

The remedy Karen Armstrong proposes for this condition is compassion. Were we to place ourselves in the other person’s shoes, the world would be an infinitely better place.

It is hard to argue with that but how on earth, as one audience member asked, do you debate with those who would rather use a gun to win their arguments? In short, how are you going to convince Mumtaz Qadri?

Armstrong responded by saying that in her experience, most hardline religious groups are motivated by fear, the fear that their beliefs and way of life are going to be wiped out. Their violence then, is a reaction to that fear. The answer, according to her, is not to attack their belief system but rather to debate with them in a non-confrontational way.

It is a neat argument, but also one that ignores the fact that for many extremist groups the quest for power is now an end in itself. And that fear is for them more a tool than a motivating factor. She does of course accept the fact that the sentiments of hardline religious groups are often exploited for political purposes, drawing on examples from the United States all the way to Pakistan.

God is not a politician, says Armstrong, but there is no denying that His word is used for political gain.

Another audience member argued that since religious beliefs seem to lead to violent arguments, perhaps the answer is to remove religion from our lives altogether. To this Armstrong responded that Homo Sapiens were in fact Homo Religiosis, and that denying religion is alien to human nature.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.

 

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Aftermath of Salman Tasser’s killing: Another Christian family on the run


What has terrorised this country more than anything is a lethal excuse used against weak and powerless people mostly from minority groups. Blasphemy is a word on everyone’s lips and that has given sleepless nights to all Christians, Ahmadis and now Muslims too. The assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, has exposed the fragile edifice of this society truly based on misuse of religion. The response of people to Salman’s killer has blown the minds who hoped for some maturity from the people of this country. But his is the country where I have seen heroes becoming villains and villains becoming heroes.

Salman’s killing has strengthened the evil forces which have been misusing religion to commit crimes, seek authority and fulfill their vicious plans. Unfortunately, the current government run by PPP–supposed to be a liberal party– has scummed to the blackmailing done in the name of religion also by the religious political parties. The same party has isolated its key member, Salman, and let him killed by a fanatic. The same fanatic has deepened the divide in the society and encouraged others to play with the same excuse to gain some fame.

The story of this Cristian woman (read below) is a proof that Pakistan was never meant for non Muslims. The white portion in the flag was what we buried with the founder of this country who thought of a secular state.

These fanatics are exploiting blasphemy and taking the law in their hands. But we never hear of any suo moto action by our Chief Justice who take it almost every day on every other issue. Here we find him silent. When the writ of the government is challenged by these people then the government hides behind the religion. When they humiliate women in front of the whole world, the police like to be among the audience. The mob mentality is what has scared the people who intend to help those being victimised.

Now where do we stand? Is this a country only for Muslims and among Muslims only those who follow a certain type of Islam which is unknown to us? Is any religion bigger than humanity and a human life? Who has given them this right to hijack Islam? Who has allowed them to use violence in the name of Prophet (pbuh)? Who has made them protectors of Islam? NOT us. And we will not. All those who accuse others of blasphemy without any proof are the ones who commit blasphemy. Inciting to violence is a crime and it remains a crime even if they do it under the pretext of blasphemy.

We need to be united against these evil forces ready to destroy our identity as Pakistanis and we must stop them from hijacking our religion for their vested interests.

(STORY)
Express Tribune, January 15th

LAHORE: Two Christian women were beaten and publically humiliated by an angry mob over apparently frivolous blasphemy allegations and they and their family are now in hiding for fear of being killed, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“None of our relatives is ready to let us stay with them. They fear the wrath of the extremists, particularly after the assassination of Salmaan Taseer,” a male member of the family said over the phone from an undisclosed location.

The family and a non-governmental organisation that is helping them asked that their identities not be revealed, lest it put them in further danger. The names mentioned here are fictitious.

According to the family, the allegations stem from a dispute between Amina, a Muslim, and her sister-in-law Zahira, a Christian, in an East Lahore locality. The two got into an argument on Tuesday night and though it appeared to have been settled, on Wednesday morning, after her husband Zahid had gone to work, Amina walked out onto the street and started shouting that Zahira had abused the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

A short while later, a group of men led by Muhammad Sameer, a member of a religious organisation keen on raising its sectarian profile, forced their way into the house and started slapping Zahira, said another of her brothers, Sohail. “Other men and women from the neighbourhood started gathering at the house too and they beat up my sister and mother. They were the only people in the house,” he said.

“We tried our best to get her to confess her crime,” Sameer told The Express Tribune. As a member of the religious organisation, he said he could not tolerate any derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

Sameer added that he was very proud of his wife’s performance during the mob beating. “She beat Zahira more than anyone else. Her hand is so swollen that she hasn’t been able to make rotis since the day of the incident. I’ve been getting my meals from a restaurant,” he said.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of Salmaan Taseer, is a member of the same group as Sameer. The group also runs a twenty-four hour cable TV channel.

Khadim Hazoor, Sameer’s son-in-law and another participant in the beating, said that the women’s faces were blackened and they were made to wear necklaces of shoes and paraded around the locality on donkeys to humiliate them. He said the women denied blaspheming and repeatedly touched their feet seeking mercy.

He said the people of the locality would not allow Zahid or his family to return to their house, which he lives next door to. He claimed that the fight between Zahira and Amina the night before the incident revolved around the upbringing of Zahid and Amina’s 18-month-old daughter. Amina had wanted to raise her daughter as a Muslim, but Zahira wanted her niece to be raised as a Christian, he said.

Hazoor accused Zahid of “cheating Islam” by pretending to convert from Christianity to Islam so he could marry the Muslim girl. “We will not let them live in this house. He has not only cheated Amina but also Islam,” he said.

Zameer Khan, an NGO worker, helped the family flee the locality after they were attacked. “Apparently there was no blasphemy, just an argument between two women,” he said.

He said after hearing of the incident, he had reached the scene to find the women being attacked. He said he had asked the mob if anyone had heard Zahira utter any blasphemous remarks, to which they all replied in the negative. He said he persuaded them to let the women go while he investigated the matter. He then helped relocate the family temporarily. He said he had also convinced the mob not to involve the police.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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A tribute to Salman Taseer: We will continue our struggle…


Salman Taseer in a press conference with Aasia Bibi (r), his wife (c) and his daughter (L)

The country in 2011 has lost a brave, liberal and outspoken politician-Governor Punjab, Salman Taseer–who did what no one else could do. In December, 2010, I got a chance of meeting him and when asked about his bold step of supporting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, he was still determined and confident of his faith as a Muslim and also of what he thought of blasphemy law. He wanted President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon Aasia Bibi for the crime she never committed. Blasphemy law, he called, ‘a black law’ saying I do not like it. But since then we all went gaga and assumed his support for Aasia as his disrespect to Holy Prophet (PBUH) but that made me wonder how illogical we are in our assumptions.

I have some questions in my mind with a hope I will ever get their answers. Who commits blasphemy? Those hawkers who throw newspapers at our doorsteps with the name of God and Prophet on the front page? The police and lawyers who repeat thousands of times those blasphemous remarks in police stations and courts to prove their point against the accused?  And why this blasphemy law is not applied when disrespect is shown for other religions and Prophets?

NO one had the guts to raise Aasia issue, only Salman Taseer could do so. It is a shame when Dr. Sahibzada Abu-al-Khair Muhammad Zubair from JUP said on Geo that no Muslim should mourn his (Salman) death because he supported a woman who committed blasphemy. Salman Taseer rightly said that this is a man made law.

Criticising a law which some people have made for their vested interests does not mean disrespect to Prophet (PBUH). The blame of this murder should be shared by all those religious parties, extremist forces, and orthodox who either stayed quiet when death threats were made to the Governor, or who provoked those who finally did it in the broad day light.

Slman Taseer was neither an amazing politician, nor a perfect governor but he was liberal and never a hypocrite which is not a trait of a good politician.  He had never been a supporter of any cause despite all his liberal views, but he died for a cause. Those who thought that this murder  is enough to silent all dissenting voices have to face disappointment now. It will create many Salman Taseer’s because we all own this country. We refuse to hand it over to any extremist religious, or ideological force. We have a right to life and we refuse to be killed for our views. 

Insecure cowards need bullets but brave live and die for their beliefs. Islam and Prophet (PBUH) do not need these so called watch guards who are foolish in assuming that they are here to protect Islam and Prophet (PBUH). It is a war now which we have to fight for our survival, humanity and Pakistan.

Below are some stories and Interview of Salman Taseer:

Governor Punjab Salman Taseer killed in gun attack
Dawn, 4 January, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Gunmen killed the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, a senior member of the ruling party, in Islamabad on Tuesday, his spokesman said.

“Yes, he has died,” said the spokesman for Salman Taseer.

Police official Mohammad Iftikhar said Taseer was gunned down by one of his elite security force protectors. Five other people were wounded as other security personnel responded to the attack.

Police said earlier Taseer had been shot nine times and wounded near his Islamabad home in the F6 sector and close to Kohsar market, a popular shopping and cafe spot frequented by wealthy Pakistanis and expatriates.

Another police official, Hasan Iqbal, said a pair of witnesses told the police that as the governor was leaving his vehicle, a man from his security squad fired at him. Taseer then fell, while other police officials fired on the attacker.

In recent days, as the People’s Party has faced the loss of its coalition partners, the 56-year-old Taseer has insisted that the government will survive. But it was his stance against the blasphemy laws that apparently led to his killing.

Interior Minister Rahman Malik told reporters that the suspect in the case had surrendered to police and told them he killed Taseer because “the governor described the blasphemy laws as a black law.”

Taseer was believed to be meeting someone for a meal, Malik said. Other members of his security detail were being questioned, Malik said.

The security for Taseer was provided by the Punjab government.

“We will see whether it was an individual act or someone had asked him” to do it, Malik said of the attacker.

“He was the most courageous voice after Benazir Bhutto on the rights of women and religious minorities,” said a crying Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to Zardari and friend of Taseer. “God, we will miss him.”

Newsline Interview:

Q: Why did you take up Aasiya Bibi’s case?

A: Aasiya Bibi’s case is particularly relevant. She is a woman who has been incarcerated for a year-and-a half on a charge trumped up against her five days after an incident where people who gave evidence against her were not even present. So this is a blatant violation against a member of a minority community. I, like a lot of right-minded people, was outraged, and all I did was to show my solidarity. It is the first time in the history of the Punjab that a governor has gone inside a district jail, held a press conference and stated clearly that this is a blatant miscarriage of justice and that the sentence that has been passed is cruel and inhumane. I wanted to take a mercy petition to the president, and he agreed, saying he would pardon Aasiya Bibi if there had indeed been a miscarriage of justice.

Q: When do you expect the president to issue the pardon?

A: The case will come before the High Court and be heard, and if for any grotesque reason the judgement of the Sheikhupura district judge is upheld, then she will be given a presidential pardon.

Q: You have been criticised for circumventing the legal process.

A: Yes, particularly by a television talk show host. I would like to ask that host if some maulvi accused her of blasphemy and she spent a year-and-a half in jail and was then offered a presidential pardon, would she turn around and say, “no wait until my appeal has been heard.” This kind of ‘mummy daddy’ approach is probably fine for others, but I wonder if she would apply it to herself. I don’t think I have circumvented anything; all I have done is to draw everyone’s attention to this case. I have also showed my solidarity with minority communities who are being targeted by this law and, in doing so, I have sent across a strong message.

I have received thousands of messages from people from all walks of life. The result can only be good. This law that no one dared speak about is now being discussed, criticised and its repeal sought. I have heard anchors, journalists, members of civil society, people like Ghamdi, Imran Khan even Rana Sanaullah and many more saying amendments are required. The important thing to remember is that this is a man-made law, not a God-made one. What I find particularly distasteful is that when you speak of amendment, people assume you condone the crime. If I am against the death sentence, it does not mean I condone murder.

Q: Do you advocate repeal of those provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code better known as the Blasphemy Law?

A: If you want my personal opinion, I don’t like this law at all. I understand we are working in a coalition government and that being the case what we can do is to amend the law in such a way that the maker of a false accusation is tried under the same law. There should also be a proper filtration process where someone like a DCO should confirm that there is a case to answer. This will help ensure that pressure from maulvis and fanatics does not result in the victimisation of helpless people. One of the maulvis demonstrating against me said that they killed Arif Iqbal Bhatti, a judge who released someone accused of blasphemy. Surely, at the very least, he should be tried for incitement to murder.

Q: Yes, but the perpetrators get away…

A: The real problem is that the government is not prepared to face religious fanaticism head on. This also gives us a bad name in the world.

Q: Babar Awan, the federal law minister, has said there is no question of repealing the law on his watch. How do you respond to that?

A: Well, I do not agree with Babar Awan, it is as simple as that. That opinion is not a majority opinion in the party. Sherry Rehman has tabled a bill to amend the PPC. Most people in this country – and I am not talking about the lunatic fringe – are moderate. They do not like this law and have demonstrated against it.

Q: Will the PPP support Sherry Rehman’s effort?

A: President Zardari is a liberal, modern man; most people I know in the PPP are liberal and modern. I think the MQM, ANP and most of those in the PML-Q have the same point of view. So if push came to shove and there is no bowing to pressure from the lunatic maulvi, then it can very easily go through. And I think if Nawaz Sharif will show a little bit of moral courage for a change and keep away from his constituency of religious fundamentalism and place himself on middle ground, that too would be a very positive thing. This amendment should come through not on a party basis but across party lines. So you vote with your conscience.

Q: People may have demonstrated against Aasiya Bibi’s sentence, but fatwas have been issued against you.

A: People also issued fatwas against Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. They issued fatwas against basant. These are a bunch of self-appointed maulvis who no one takes seriously. The thing I find disturbing is that if you examine the cases of the hundreds tried under this law, you have to ask how many of them are well-to-do? How many businessmen? Why is it that only the poor and defenceless are targeted? How come over 50% of them are Christians when they form less than 2% of the country’s population. This points clearly to the fact that the law is misused to target minorities.

Q: How do you think the media has handled this issue?

A: I am very impressed. Nearly 90% of the media in Pakistan has spoken out against this. I have watched talk shows, spoken to anchors, read numerous columns and opinions, and barring those with a deliberate agenda, not just every media person but also guests on talk shows have openly condemned the Blasphemy Law. They all say it should be amended, which is something which has been the most encouraging result of my move. Because I took a stand, many people have lined up and taken a stand and that, in turn, will empower judges and law-enforcement agencies to the extent that they may not bow to pressure. I think that now a policeman registering a case of blasphemy or a judge hearing a case will investigate before registering or at least think twice before hearing such as case.

Q: What kind of perverse pleasure is there in oppressing the weak and vulnerable?

A: Unfortunately and sadly there are people who feel bigger when they pick on someone who cannot fight back. It’s called bullying. I went to Sheikhupura jail to stand up against a bully and it has encouraged others to do so as well. That’s what taking a moral stance is. I am honestly happy to say that I am heartened by the huge response from ordinary folk. Even people who are deeply religious have spoken out against this black law. Ghamdi, for example, has stated clearly that this has nothing to do with Islam – Islam calls on us to protect minorities, the weak and the vulnerable.

Taseer to take Aasia’s clemency appeal to president
ExpressTribune

ISLAMABAD: Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer has said that he would take the clemency appeal of Aasia Bibi, Christian woman sentenced to death over blasphemy allegations, to the President.He said he would personally request the president to use his prerogative and pardon the woman. Taseer visited Sheikhupura to meet Aasia Bibi on Saturday. Talking to the media men after the meeting, he said that Bibi denied that she had said anything disrespectful for the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) or Islam, adding that she accused the villagers who had chased her to her home of sexually assaulting her and dragging her through the streets. Taseer said that he did not want to interfere in the judicial proceeding, but he would do as much as he could in his capacity to make sure that she does not get punished for a crime she said she had not committed. He added that it was for the president to decide whether he would or would not grant her appeal.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2010.

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Taseer to take Aasia’s clemency appeal to president

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians, Courage

 

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Is this kidnapping for ransom?


The recent kidnapping of a Hindu spiritual leader, Lakki Chand Garji, who happens to be the ‘maharaja’ of the Kali Mata Mandir’  has shocked many. It was first solely read as an attempt to target the Hindus here in Pakistan, and for obvious reasons including the conditions under which they live in this country. Pakistan is not the best place for minorities to live and the strong wave of extremism has given this belief another boost. But considering Balochistan complex situation, I would rather like to keep other options in mind too, not just a simple attack on Hindus. Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, Chief Minister of Balochistan, has already pointed out that the kidnapping is for ransom and that is the option we cannot rule out.

Minorities could be an easy and strong target at the same time for ransom and especially when it is about the life of their spiritual leader. The kidnappers always get their message through easily when it is someone from minorities because of the concerns of minorities and human rights groups . The protests triggered by the kidnapping has attracted the CM attention who has directed the law enforcing agencies to ensure his safe release.

Kidnapping-for-ransom incidents have been on the rise in Balochistan except target killing. The kidnappers manage to whisk away in broad daylight and sometimes and eventually the families of victims  have to pay huge amounts to secure their release. The law enforcing agencies could not succeed in ensuring the release of those kidnapped in at least two cases that I have known. A renowned businessman Ahmed Ali Hazara was abducted from Gordath Singh Road in February 2009,  who was released after his family paid huge amount. Similarly, a senior advocate of Balochistan High Court Iftikharul Haq was abducted close to his house at Doctor Bano Road in March 2009, but despite a suo moto notice and protests by lawyers, his family ended up paying a handsome amount to his kidnappers. The police, unfortunately, could not be of any good in these cases.

If Lakki Chand Garji’s case, it may happen again…

Below is the story:

Islamabad, Dec 23 (IANS) A leading Hindu spiritual leader of Pakistan was kidnapped at gunpoint in Balochistan province while he was on his way to officiate a wedding.

Eightytwo-year-old Lakki Chand Garji, who is the `maharaja’ of the Kali Mata Mandir in Kalat town, is considered to be one of Pakistan’s most revered Hindu spiritual leaders. He was kidnapped Tuesday night, the Express Tribune reported Thursday.

As the news of his abduction spread, hundreds of Hindu community members blocked the key highway that links Karachi and Quetta, bringing traffic to a halt for several hours.

Hindus demanded that the government secure the immediate release of their spiritual leader. Garji along with five people was travelling from Kalat town to Khuzdar to attend a marriage ceremony.

The media report said that he was intercepted by armed men who kidnapped him. The people accompanying him were later released. ‘A vehicle was chasing us and intercepted us at a deserted place near Surab, some hundred kilometers away from Kalat,’ said Babo Lal, who was one of the five men released by kidnappers.

‘The kidnappers tied our hands from behind with rope and blind folded us, thus I do not know where they were heading,’ Lal was quoted as saying.

Lakki Chand Garji has been the ‘maharaja at Kali Mata Mandir for the past 60 years and he has command on several languages including Balochi, Hindi, Sindhi, Persian and Brahavi, his devotees said.

Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, Balochistan province chief minister, told the media that he believed it was an incident of kidnapping for ransom and did not have religious overtones. Raisani directed law enforcement agencies to secure the release of the Hindu community leader at the earliest.

He observed that kidnapping cases had risen in certain areas of the province. The protests by the Hindu community members took place in Khuzdar, Quetta, Kalat and Naushki. Hindu community elders said that that they are being targeted by criminals.

Community leaders Nand Lal, Raj Kumar and Chander Kumar said the government has failed to protect the life and property of the people, particularly those belonging to the minority community.

The Hindu Panchayat Quetta took out a rally from the Arya Samaj Mandir in Quetta and went through Jinnah Road, Masjid Road, Shahra-e-Iqbal and Mannan Chowk of the Baloch capital city.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2010 in Hindus

 

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‘Disabled people not allowed to pray in congregation’


 

 

There are some others too who fail to let their voices heard despite all their efforts. But some have ears to hear them like the one who did this story on disabled people. This blog is for all those who are considered minority for any possible reason. But I, when mention minority, refer to their strengths and abilities. Highlighting their problems here show that how much we need them in the society as an integral part. It also shows how much we believe in their capabilities in contributing to this society in a productive way.

Let’s take our first step towards embracing those who hesitate in coming to us because of any handicap–physical, mental or social.

Below is the story:

Express Tribune by Sher Ali

KARACHI: There is a ban on wheelchairs inside mosques and disabled people are not allowed to pray in congregation, pointed out the Association of Physically Handicapped Adults (APHA) on World Disability Day.

“The mullahs, who shut their mosques to us, have no idea about religion,” said the association’s SM Nishat at a news conference on Friday.

According to APHA statistics, 10 per cent of the people in Pakistan are disabled in one way or the other. Out of these, 40 per cent of people are physically challenged and can barely live on the benefits offered by the state.

“We do not want pity or sympathetic looks from people. We are talented educated professionals,” said Dr Maimoona Bari, who runs her own clinic in North Nazimabad and is a member of the association’s executive committee. “We just want to be awarded our rights.”

“The two-per cent employment quota for the disabled is being given to [non-disabled] individuals and that is unfair,” complained APHA president Shariful Muzaffer. “Before they used to tell us that we aren’t educated enough but now when we prove our qualifications, they still offer the jobs to others.”

The Express Tribune contacted Sindh Minister for Social Welfare Nargis N D Khan for a confirmation but she insisted that the “quota is being fulfilled”. “We are hiring in all positions, such as coordinators and computer technicians, depending on the applicant’s ability and education,” she said.

Khan refused, however, to give an exact number of disabled people who have been hired during her tenure. “I don’t know the exact figure but we have issued advertisements and will be hiring soon,” she said.

The government also offers a 50-per cent discount to disabled people on airfare and railway tickets but members of the association claimed that the discount is either useless or not offered at all.

Syed Javed Qadeer of the APHA narrated his experience with the national airline, whose agent quoted an airfare higher than the regular, economy-class ticket. The agent said that the airline offers all its discounts on the business-class ticket.

“This made no sense to me because we can barely afford the economy ticket and now we have to pay more than the regular fare,” said Qadeer, who called the ticketing centre and received a confirmation that the 50-percent discount for disabled people and the 25-per cent discount for the attendant flying with them is only offered on the higher classes of both economy and business.

Another member of the executive committee, Shazia Yousaf, who has been working at NADRA for the past 10 years, complained that she receives pitiful looks every time she rides a bus but she doesn’t let it get to her. “What I do need is some help and for others to realise that they need to do their part as well,” she said.

“We need ramps for easy access into buildings, railings for support to climb stairs, lower footpaths to climb onto without help and buses friendly for handicapped people. This is not charity we are asking for, this is our right.”

Rally outside KPC

The Disabled Welfare Association organised a rally on Friday and walked from Karachi Press Club towards the Arts Council roundabout. The participants demanded more land for a training workshop for the disabled as the present 40-yard space was not enough.

The association’s president, Javaid Raees, said that the chief minister has been making promises for the past two years. Raees held negotiations with special advisers to the chief minister, M Waqar Mehdi and Rashid Rabbani, who were later joined by Pakistan Peoples Party Karachi chapter president Najmi Alam. Alam promised 25 government jobs for the disabled as well as a larger plot of land.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2010.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2010 in Very Very Special people

 

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