Tuesday, November 12, 2019

South Asian Contrast: Ayodhya and Kartarpur

November 9, 2019 will go down in South Asian history as a day of sharp contrasts: While Pakistan restored and opened Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur for Sikh pilgrims, the Indian Supreme Court ordered the construction of a Hindu temple on the site where Babri Masjid stood for centuries. Can India and its western apologists still claim to have shared values?



Shared Values:

At a congressional hearing on the Capitol Hill in Washington in October, 2019, American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked Ms. Alice Wells, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, the following pertinent question:

"Kashmiris have been restricted from communicating outside their country for 50+ days. In Assam, almost 2 million people are being asked to prove their citizenship. This is how the Rohingya genocide started. At what point do we question whether PM Modi shares our values?"

The question of shared values has been forcefully answered in the negative by the Indian Supreme Court in its Ayodhya verdict. This judgement by India's apex court has rewarded the criminal acts of Hindu Nationalists by ordering the construction of Ram Temple on the land where centuries-old Mughal-era Babri Masjid was destroyed in 1992.

Mr. Modi's actions and Indian Supreme Court's acquiescence have forced Financial Times's Gideon Rachman to conclude that  "India’s Narendra Modi has had a free pass from the west for too long". And Ed Luce, also from Financial Times, has written as follows: "During my session (at Bangalore Literary Festival) I was asked about the biggest threat to the future of global liberal democracy. My answer was Narendra Modi".

The only shared values between Washington and New Delhi are those of President Trump and Prime Minister Modi. Both leaders share hatred of minorities, particularly Muslims and  immigrants.

Kartarpur Corridor:

Pakistan restored and opened Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and signed an agreement with India to open a visa-free corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrim to visit the shrine on Baba Guru Nanak's 550th birthday.

Prime Minister Modi also wants to take credit for the corridor to attempt to show that he is not against minorities. But the fact is that Prime Minister Imran Khan left Modi little choice but to go along by making Kartarpur Sahib reality in record time.

Hindu Temples in Pakistan:

Pakistan Supreme Court recently took suo moto action to protect ancient Katas Raj temple in Chakwal district. The temple has a water pond that has been drying up due to falling water table in the region. The Supreme Court has ordered local officials to come up with a plan to restore the water pond to restrict ground water withdrawal by industries and farms to maintain the pond considered holy by Hindus.

Pakistan has also opened a 1,000-year-old Hindu temple in Sialkot for puja for the first time since partition in response to demand by the local Hindu community, according to media reports. In addition, Pakistan is restoring and reopening 400 Hindu temples across the country.

Indian Muslims:

While the actions of Prime Minister Modi's government have caused a great deal of concern among Muslims for their future in India, Indian Supreme Court's Ayodhya verdict has shown that the institutions of Indian democracy are surrendering to the the growing power of Hindu Nationalists. Indian Muslim journalist Rana Ayub has summed up their fears in her Washington Post column as follows:

"Muslims in India fear that this would indeed be the beginning of reimagining India with Muslims as second-class citizens as envisaged by right-wing supremacists. A resounding message has been sent to the more than 200 million Muslims in the country that they must bear every humiliation and injustice with the silence expected of an inferior citizenry. I and millions of my co-religionists have been made to feel like an orphan yet again in the land we have loved, cherished and called our own. A land whose liberation from the British was fought by revolutionaries and freedom fighters that included our own forefathers. I wonder if that cherished freedom holds any meaning in the new India that seeks to erase my legacy and my existence".

Jinnah was right:

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah saw the threat posed to Muslim interests by Hindu majoritarianism in India as far back as 1938.  Speaking to the Muslim League in the Central Legislative Assembly, he set out his stance of permanent majorities and minorities as follows:

 “From the first contact it is not a democratic majority in the seven Congress provinces [that came to power after the 1937 election]. It is not a democratic majority that has formed the Government and is carrying on; it is the permanent Hindu majority which cannot be altered by any change whatsoever and therefore it is the travesty of the system which may be worthwhile in England. But when it is planted here, you see, that it is a failure. What is the result – the permanent Hindu majority and the ministry that is a Hindu ministry.”

Summary:

While Pakistan is trying to make amends by promoting religious freedoms for minorities, Prime Minister Modi's India is turning into a Hindu Rashtra by making Muslims second-class citizens. Yet, India's western apologists are still promoting the idea of strategic partnership based on shared values. Mr. Modi's actions and Indian Supreme Court's acquiesce have forced Financial Times's Gideon Rachman to conclude that "India’s Narendra Modi has had a free pass from the west for too long".

Here are video clips of US Congress's Hearing on Kashmir held on Oct 22, 2019:

https://youtu.be/nMrydKhvi9M




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Rape as a Political Weapon Used By Hindutva

Hindu Nationalism Inspired By Nazism, Fascism

Rise of Islamophobia After Sept 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks

700,000 Indian Soldiers Versus 7 Million Kashmiris

Modi's Kashmir Blunder and India-Pakistan Nuclear Conflict

Is India a Paper Elephant? 

Howdy Modi Rally Exposes Indian-Americans to Charges of Hypocrisy

Modi's Extended Lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir

Hinduization of India

Brievik's Hindutva Rhetoric

Indian Textbooks

India's RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

VPOS Youtube Channel

21 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

An investigation by EU DisinfoLab, an NGO tracking sophisticated disinformation campaigns, has listed some 265 #FakeNews outlets across 65 countries promoting #India’s geopolitical interests through republication of propaganda pieces and op-eds. #Hindutva https://qz.com/india/1747796/fake-media-outlets-boosted-indian-kashmir-stand-in-eu-says-ngo/

EU DisinfoLab has uncovered links between zombie companies, dormant media outlets, and legally non-existent organisations, lobbying the EU and also the UN by constantly targeting Pakistan.


Questionable news portals mentioned in the investigation include Times of Los Angeles, Times of Portugal, New Delhi Times, New York Journal American, and Times of North Korea.

The entire campaign ultimately dovetails with India’s Aug. 5 move to wrest tighter control of the former state of Jammu & Kashmir, and garner support for the country at international fora. While Pakistan has accused India of altering the international border, India maintains that Jammu & Kashmir is its internal matter.

EU DisinfoLab’s investigation demonstrates how this network of think tanks, NGOs, and media outlets has already translated into a set of EU parliamentarians visiting the Kashmir valley on Oct. 30. The visit was perceived by some as a sign of validation for the government’s move. It came amidst international attention on curbs on free speech and allegations of human rights violations in the Kashmir valley.

A few weeks after this, on Oct. 30, a group of 27 EU parliamentarians, mostly from right-wing political parties, visited the restive Kashmir Valley. This was perceived as a show of support for Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s big agenda for the newly created union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, carved out of the former state.

Riaz Haq said...

‘Homophobic, misogynist and a bigot’ — meet #Modi's #Brazilian friend Jair Bolsonaro, #India’s Republic Day chief guest. #Islamophobia #Racism #Hate #Misogeny #Hindutva #BJP https://theprint.in/world/homophobic-misogynist-and-a-bigot-meet-jair-bolsonaro-indias-republic-day-chief-guest/321549/ via @ThePrintIndia

When Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accepted India’s invitation earlier this week to be a chief guest at the upcoming 71st Republic Day, the Narendra Modi government was faced with some acerbic criticism.

While some argued that New Delhi was inviting a “far-Right bigot” for the celebrations, others said the government was repeating a its “mistake” of calling a group of largely Right-wing European parliamentarians to visit Jammu and Kashmir recently.

Critics of the central government’s decision also have a robust set of evidence to back their claims.

In 1999, Bolsonaro had called for the assassination of former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Again, in 2003, he had told a fellow female legislator that he won’t rape her because she “doesn’t deserve it”.

His offensive comments have been steadfast. In 2011, Bolsonaro said he would rather have his son die in an accident than come out as a homosexual. And as recently as 2017, the president had remarked that “a policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a policeman”.

Such statements have also created an impression that Bolsonaro is part of the global nationalist-populist wave. But to look at him from such as lens is only a reductive exercise.

“The Bolsonaros (Jair and his sons) are above all a Brazilian phenomenon, a product of not only the country’s severe economic, institutional and criminal crises since 2014, but also of its successes in the decade prior,” wrote Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly.

Riaz Haq said...

Narendra Modi’s India
The Prime Minister’s Hindu-nationalist government has cast two hundred million Muslims as internal enemies.
By Dexter Filkins

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/12/09/blood-and-soil-in-narendra-modis-india

“Modi was a fascist in every sense” - Ashis Nandy - a trained psychologist, wanting to study the mentality of Hindu nationalists, interviewed Modi when he was young.

In 1925, K. B. Hedgewar, a physician from central India, founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an organization dedicated to the idea that India was a Hindu nation, and that Hinduism’s followers were entitled to reign over minorities. Members of the R.S.S. believed that many Muslims were descended from Hindus who had been converted by force, and so their faith was of questionable authenticity. (The same thinking applied to Christians, who make up about two per cent of India’s population. Other major religions, including Buddhism and Sikhism, were considered more authentically Indian.)

---
The R.S.S.’s original base was higher-caste men, but, in order to grow, it had to widen its membership. Among the lower-caste recruits was an eight-year-old named Narendra Modi, from Vadnagar, a town in the state of Gujarat. Modi belonged to the low-ranking Ghanchi caste, whose members traditionally sell vegetable oil; Modi’s father ran a small tea shop near the train station, where his young son helped. When Modi was thirteen, his parents arranged for him to marry a local girl, but they cohabited only briefly, and he did not publicly acknowledge the relationship for many years. Modi soon left the marriage entirely and dedicated himself to the R.S.S. As a pracharak—the group’s term for its young, chaste foot soldiers—Modi started by cleaning the living quarters of senior members, but he rose quickly. In 1987, he moved to the R.S.S.’s political branch, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P.

When Modi joined, the Party had only two seats in parliament. It needed an issue to attract sympathizers, and it found one in an obscure religious dispute. In the northern city of Ayodhya was a mosque, called Babri Masjid, built by the Mughal emperor Babur in 1528. After independence, locals placed Hindu idols inside the mosque and became convinced that it had been built on the former site of a Hindu temple. A legend grew that the god Ram—an avatar of Vishnu, often depicted with blue skin—had been born there.

-----------------------

According to FactChecker, an organization that tracks communal violence by surveying media reports, there have been almost three hundred hate crimes motivated by religion in the past decade—almost all of them since Modi became Prime Minister. Hindu mobs have killed dozens of Muslim men. The murders, which are often instigated by Bajrang Dal members, have become known as “lynchings,” evoking the terror that swept the American South after Reconstruction. The lynchings take place against a backdrop of hysteria created by the R.S.S. and its allies—a paranoid narrative of a vast majority, nearly a billion strong, being victimized by a much smaller minority.

When Muslims are lynched, Modi typically says nothing, and, since he rarely holds press conferences, he is almost never asked about them. But his supporters often salute the killers. In June, 2017, a Muslim man named Alimuddin Ansari, who was accused of cow trafficking, was beaten to death in the village of Ramgarh. Eleven men, including a local leader of the B.J.P., were convicted of murder, but last July they were freed, pending appeal. On their release, eight of them were met by Jayant Sinha, the B.J.P. Minister for Civil Aviation. Sinha, a Harvard graduate and a former consultant for McKinsey & Company, draped the men in marigold garlands and presented them with sweets. “All I am doing is honoring the due process of law,” he said at the time.

Riaz Haq said...

The below via Basharat Ali and so very true! A few years ago Indians came out of the streets by the hundreds of thousands as part of "India against Corruption." Where are those teaming masses now???? "India against Fascism" anybody? Not worthwhile to get off your couches?
·
""Article 35A and 370 are read down from the Constitution. Indian liberals: the decision poses a threat to Indian democracy. Yet the decision is received with mass acceptance and people are asked to move on.

The land in Ayodhya is given to Hindus for the construction of a mandir where a mosque stood for centuries. Indian liberals: the decision poses a threat to Indian secularism. Muslims are asked to bury the past and move on.

Accused of rape, four people are killed in an encounter in Hyderabad. Indian liberals: this poses a threat to the independence of investigating agencies. Yet, the police are garlanded and celebrities come out in their support.

It is time that Indians who still think they can go back to the Nehruvian era and flog the dead horse called "the Idea of India" accept the "New India" as a reality and not an aberration. The fact that people accept what is happening around them and move on is the reason why Modi is ruling this country. The transformation of India into a Hindu Rashtra has happened long back. But the Indian liberals would still cry: no, we won't let our country become another Pakistan.""

Riaz Haq said...

#India hires Cornerstone as #Washington lobbyist to provide “strategic counsel, tactical planning and govt relations assistance on policy matters before the #US Government, Capitol Hill, state govts, academic institutions and think-tanks. https://politi.co/2LpDxuT via @politico

India’s government has hired Cornerstone Government Affairs on a three-month contract to represent it in Washington. Cornerstone will provide “strategic counsel, tactical planning and government relations assistance on policy matters before the U.S. Government, the U.S. Congress, and select state governments, as well as academic institutions and think-tanks,” according to a copy of the contract filed with the Justice Department. The contract is worth $40,000 a month.


sikh said...

As a Sikh I welcome Pakistan move.
As Pakistan is moving towards more inclusiveness, India is going back.

I hope everyone live in peace. " Sarbhat da Bhalla".

Riaz Haq said...

No outreach on #CAA , foreign #diplomats warn: #India fast losing friends. People in their countries are questioning #Modi government’s commitment to “shared values”. #CAA_NRC_NPR #Hindutva #Islamophobia | India News,The Indian Express

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/caa-article-370-foreign-diplomats-warn-india-losing-friends-6190809/

Diplomats across continents say the unflattering images and articles about the protests and the government crackdown in the foreign press have made it harder for India’s “friends”, as many in their countries are questioning the government’s commitment to “shared values”.

More than a fortnight after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act came into force and triggered nationwide protests, there is growing unease within the capital’s foreign diplomatic community over the BJP-led NDA government’s moves.

The diplomats have publicly maintained that the CAA is an “internal issue”. However, when The Indian Express spoke to ambassadors and diplomats from at least 16 countries, across all continents, over the last few days on the new law and the protests, they expressed “concern” at the situation.

The other key takeaway was this: The government held several briefings for them on various issues it had described as “domestic” — Pulwama attack, Balakot airstrike, revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, and even the Ayodhya verdict. But it has not briefed them even once on the CAA and its ramifications.

“The Indian government briefed us on Kashmir and even the Ayodhya verdict although it maintained that they were domestic issues. But they did not bother to brief us on the CAA, which has an international dimension to it — after all, it talks of three of India’s neighbouring countries in the region,” an ambassador from a G-20 country said.

The new law grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis — but not Muslims — who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014.

The diplomats, who include representatives from G-20 and P-5 groupings, and neighbouring countries, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is “sensitive” and any attribution “may impact” bilateral ties.

They recalled that through 2019, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) held several briefings, mostly after Pulwama-Balakot in February-March, followed by Kashmir from August to October — and, to their surprise, even once on the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict.

While bilateral conversations have happened, they said there hasn’t been any attempt to brief them together, or in batches, as was the practice in the other cases. They said some written material, mostly in the form of FAQs on the CAA, have been shared with embassies.

In such a situation, most of these diplomats have concluded that the protests were not limited to the Muslim community. They are now trying to get a sense of whether the government is “bothered” by the international criticism against the law.

On the ground, the first major diplomatic fallout of protests against the CAA were cancellations of visits by Bangladesh’s Foreign and Home ministers, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Many foreign diplomats feel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be responsive to international criticism, but they are not sure about Home Minister Amit Shah. “The international press is being read by our headquarters, and they have been asking us about how much political and diplomatic risk can the Modi government take,” one of the diplomats said.

Riaz Haq said...

Chomsky: #India's Symptoms Of #Fascism: “Well, I mean, the whole institutional structure of India, plus the great mass of the Hindu population, is evidently very supportive of the undermining of Kashmiri autonomy and opening up to Indian settlement” #Modi https://countercurrents.org/2020/01/in-india-what-we-are-seeing-is-the-symptoms-of-fascism-noam-chomsky

Chomsky: I don’t think its true that the middle-class (in India) has gained, its basically stagnating, the figures are pretty clear on that. As I say, in the United States, which is one of the most effective economies, its basically been no gains in 40 years for working people and petty bourgeouise. They are angry. And the anger can be exploited by somebody like Trump, who says its not your fault, it’s the fault of poor people, it’s the blacks, or Hispanics, or muslims. And Modi does the same thing. Turn the attention to extreme Hindu nationalism. They are taking our country away from us, get rid of these muslims.


Chomsky: "Yea, the support for what Modi did in Kashmir is overwhelming among the Hindu population."

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan buys more #PalmOil from #Malaysia after #Modi cuts its import. Pak bought 135,000 tons of #Malaysian palm oil last month, a record high. Pakistan bought 1.1 million tons of palm oil from Malaysia last year, while #India bought 4.4 million tons. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/pakistan-pm-imran-khan-says-043409002.html

By Krishna N. Das and Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Pakistan will buy more palm oil from Malaysia, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday, aiming to help offset lost sales after top buyer India put curbs on Malaysian imports last month amid a diplomatic row.

India imposed restrictions on refined palm oil imports and informally asked traders to stop buying from Malaysia, the world's biggest producer of the edible oil. Sources said the move was in retaliation for Malaysia's criticism of India's new religion-based citizenship law and its policy on Kashmir.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday that he discussed palm oil with Khan who was on a visit to Malaysia and that Pakistan had indicated it would import more from Malaysia.

"That's right, especially since we noticed India threatened Malaysia for supporting the Kashmir cause, threatened to cut palm oil imports," Khan told a joint news conference, referring to India's Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.

"Pakistan will do its best to compensate for that."

India is a Hindu-majority country while Malaysia and Pakistan are mainly Muslim. India and Pakistan have been mostly hostile to each other since the partition of British India in 1947, and have fought two of their three wars over competing territorial claims in Kashmir.

Pakistan may have bought around 135,000 tonnes of Malaysian palm oil last month, a record high, India-based dealers who track such shipments told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The figure is close to estimates of 141,500 tonnes from Refinitiv, which show sales to India in January may have plunged 80% from a year earlier to 40,400 tonnes.

Malaysia will release official export data on Monday.

Pakistan bought 1.1 million tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia last year, while India bought 4.4 million tonnes, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Malaysian palm oil futures rose on Tuesday after Khan's comments and on expectations of a steep drop in production in January.



STRONG TIES

India has repeatedly objected to Mahathir speaking out against its move last year to strip Kashmir's autonomy and make it easier for non-Muslims from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to gain citizenship.

At the news conference, Mahathir did not refer to Kashmir but Khan did.

"The way you, PM, have stood with us and spoken about this injustice going on, on behalf of Pakistan I really want to thank you," Khan said.

He also said he was sad he had been unable to attend a summit of Muslim leaders in Malaysia in December. Saudi Arabia did not attend the summit, saying it was the wrong forum to discuss matters affecting the world's Muslims and Khan belatedly pulled out.

Some Pakistani officials, unnamed because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said at the time that Khan pulled out under pressure from Saudi Arabia, a close ally, although local media reported his officials denied that was the reason for his absence.

"Unfortunately our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the ummah," Khan said, using the Arabic word for the Muslim community but not mentioning Saudi Arabia by name.

"It is clearly a misconception, as that was not the purpose of the conference."



(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Joseph Sipapalan; additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Gibran Peshimam in Islamabad; editing by Tom Hogue and Susan Fenton)

Riaz Haq said...

#India is facing twin #economic & #political #crises under #Modi. Ex chief #economist Arvind Subramanian says every important indicator — investment, credit, profits, tax revenue, industrial output, exports and imports — has weakened. https://www.ft.com/content/81a7935c-56e0-11ea-abe5-8e03987b7b20 via @financialtimes

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1232486608777039872?s=20


The crackdown in Kashmir, the explicit discrimination against Muslims in the new Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed national register of citizens, in a country with notoriously bad documentation, and the apparent intention to deport Muslims who cannot prove their right to stay, do together suggest a transformation of the Indian polity. So, too, is the free use of labels like “traitor” for those who disagree and “sedition” about those who protest. It is quite clear, surely, that the transformation of India into another “illiberal democracy” is long-intended. Little wonder US president Donald Trump admires Mr Modi. They play the same game, but Mr Modi’s majority gives him more cards.
--------------
India is undergoing another transformation. The India I first visited, in the 1970s, was impressively democratic — with the exception of the period known as the Emergency imposed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi between 1975 and 1977. But its economy grew too slowly. After the balance of payments crisis of 1991, India introduced radical reforms. Over the next two decades its economy became faster-growing, while the political system remained robustly democratic. After the global financial crisis, however, growth slowed. India’s politics is also now moving towards an aggressively illiberal form of majoritarianism. These twin changes are not for the better.



Arvind Subramanian, a former chief economic adviser, has co-authored a paper on the post-crisis slowdown. It notes that every important indicator — investment, credit, profits, tax revenue, industrial output, exports and imports — has weakened sharply since the financial crisis. Yet overall economic growth has supposedly risen. This contradiction persuaded him to challenge the reliability of official estimates of economic growth. His conclusion was that the overestimate of growth between 2011 and 2016 averaged about 2.5 percentage points annually, which would lower average growth to somewhere around 4.5 per cent. If true, this has been really poor.



Alas, there is worse. The economy has been slowing even more dramatically in the recent past, even on the official statistics. These show that growth of gross domestic product slowed to just 4.5 per cent, year on year, in the third quarter of last year. Growth may now turn around. But the slowdown has been dramatic, comparable even to what happened in the crisis of the early 1990s.

So what explains the weak growth after 2008 and the sharper slowdown in the recent past? First, unsustainable expansion of exports and credit-fuelled domestic investment exaggerated India’s pre-crisis growth rate. Second, despite the post-crisis emergence of severe balance-sheet-problems in financial and non-financial corporate sectors, government spending, falling oil prices and buoyant lending from non-bank financial companies sustained growth. Finally, credit from these last institutions collapsed in 2019. Consumption then joined other sources of demand — notably investment and exports — in weakening sharply. Today, argues Mr Subramanian, a vicious spiral is at work: high interest rates, weak economic growth and poor profitability are worsening debt burdens and so aggravating the problems of financial and non-financial corporations.

Riaz Haq said...

Historic Rivals #India and #Pakistan Team Up To Fight #Locusts. 3 meetings held in India & 3 in Pakistan, and they take place in a high-security but friendly environment, with #military officers attending along with locust experts. #LocustInvasion https://undark.org/2020/04/20/india-pakistan-locusts/

Locust management in the region predates the India-Pakistan conflict. A predecessor of today’s Locust Warning Organization, a division of the Indian Ministry for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, was established before the partition in 1939 in Karachi, now the capital of Pakistan, after a particularly brutal locust invasion from 1926 to 1931. And despite the decades of conflict that followed, when it comes to systemic issues such as food security, the partnership between the two countries is well honed, says Khan.

Six times a year, during the summer and fall, delegates from both sides of the border meet to discuss pest breeding patterns and control strategies, monitoring reports and local forecasts.

Three of the meetings are held in India and three in Pakistan, and while they take place in a high-security environment, with military forces attending the meeting along with locust specialists from the two countries, the atmosphere is always friendly, according to the participants. The officials’ only focus is food security and the betterment of the region, says Rajesh Malik, plant protection adviser with the Indian Ministry for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. He says they meet regularly regardless of the political situation.

Over the years, the two countries have developed sophisticated surveillance capacity, consisting of trained personnel as well as vehicles and specialized equipment, which Khan says is key to contain the locust spread. Through its portal Locust Watch, the FAO helps countries coordinate locust response on the ground, a process that has become increasingly high tech in recent years. To ensure it collects timely and detailed information, it distributes satellite antennas that connect the monitoring teams to the internet. Officials on the ground are also equipped with a tablet to log information on the presence of locusts and their development stage, as well as data such as soil moisture and vegetation.

Through the satellite connection the tablet transmits the exact coordinates of each report, which are then relayed back to the public in the FAO monthly bulletins. Countries use this information to target breeding sites for pesticide spraying. In extreme cases, low flying aircrafts can target vast swarms with precision.

But the response chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and if any one part of the response breaks down then the whole system can fall apart. “In Yemen there was a war-like situation,” says Khan referring to the desert country’s ongoing civil war. That conflict has created a humanitarian crisis, with thousands dead and millions on the verge of starvation. In the midst of the crisis, the nation’s locust control activity has been neglected — even as locusts continued to breed and migrate towards Asia last year. Khan says the environment in Yemen remains favorable to locusts, and breeding could escalate again.

Last December, says Khan, countries of the United Nations’ Desert Locust Control Committee came together in Ethiopia and discussed the lack of response capacity in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. “First and foremost, these countries need surveillance,” he says. “They need technical manpower followed by robust control operations and immediate response.”

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - #India #coronavirus: Twenty held for stopping funeral of a #Christian doctor who died of #COVID19. Dr Simon Hercules' friends and family were attacked on Sunday night when they took his body to a burial ground in #Chennai (formerly Madras). https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-52364571

At least 20 people have been arrested in south India for violently preventing the burial of a prominent doctor who died of Covid-19.

Dr Simon Hercules' friends and family were attacked on Sunday night when they took his body to a burial ground in Chennai (formerly Madras).

One of his friends had to quietly bury him in the early hours of Monday without any family members present.

He said the neurosurgeon "didn't deserve this end".

"He was not shown even basic humanity. Even his wife and son couldn't be there to say goodbye," Dr Pradeep told the News Minute website.

Local media reported that a mob of about 20 people attacked Dr Hercules' friends and family with sticks and rods. Two ambulance drivers were also injured in the incident.

Police said the people lived near the burial ground and were worried that burying Covid-19 patients in the vicinity would spread the virus.

Dr Pradeep said that Dr Hercules continued to serve during the pandemic instead of staying home, and he most likely got the infection from one of his patients.

Tamil Nadu state Health Minister C Vijayabaskar condemned the incident.

"What happened to that doctor is condemnable. Such things should not happen in the future," he said.

Experts have said that people need to be more aware about the burial rules for Covid-19 patients.

The federal health ministry guidelines say that burying the bodies of coronavirus victims is safe if all precautions are followed.

These include instructions for how bodies should be handled and disposed off. It also defines what kind of rituals can be carried out.

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi's acolytes have reminded #India's #Muslims just what he thinks of them. An image in #NewYork #TimesSquare celebrated not only the construction of a #Hindu temple but the destruction of a mosque. #BabriMasjid #AyodhyaRamMandir | Siddhartha Deb https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/06/modi-india-muslims-times-square-hindu-temple

The coronavirus might have been expected to put a halt to Modi’s American fantasies, it being as difficult to leave the United States now as it is to enter India. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop Modi’s Hindu right supporters in the United States – fronted by a group called the American Indian Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – who decided to lease giant screens in Times Square on Wednesday 5 August to display images of the Hindu god Ram and a temple to Ram being inaugurated that day in India by Modi.

There was a demo and a counter-demo and, while the plan to project an image of the proposed temple on the high-profile Nasdaq screen in Times Square did not materialise, one digital board showing the temple aired over the Hershey’s store for a limited part of the day. As their celebration of the temple appeared on a giant screen, the “Indian community” distributed sweets in Times Square. Protests were lodged with the mayor and with the billboard companies by a diverse range of groups, and were apparently successful in preventing the images from being displayed on a majority of the screens, including those on the Nasdaq building, but even the solitary airbrushed image of the Ram temple concealed far more than it revealed.

The temple construction is taking place in the provincial north Indian city of Ayodhya. This demolition was the high point of a long campaign by the Hindu right, so successful in creating an imagined grievance that it turned the BJP from a political oddity to the totalitarian behemoth it is today.


Even before the mosque was demolished, Hindus in India and abroad were asked to donate bricks to build a Ram temple, based on the claim that the mosque stood on the alleged birthplace of Ram. Bricks, some made of gold, arrived from Britain and the United States as well as from thousands of villages and towns in India in response to this campaign. Yet rather than birth, violent death was the true shrine of this campaign. Around 2,000 people died in the spiral of violence set off by the demolition of the mosque; soon the vilification of Muslims had become an everyday affair in India. Even the Gujarat pogroms in 2002 were set off by an incident involving the death of Hindu pilgrims returning to Gujarat from Ayodhya after a celebration of the demolition of the mosque.

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Mussolini confided in his son that one of his nightmares was that he would be put on trial at New York’s Madison Square Garden, in case of capture by the Allies. Narendra Modi’s fantasy was to hold his victory rally there, as he did in September 2014, soon after being elected prime minister of India. Returning triumphantly to the heart of the very empire that denied him a diplomatic visa and revoked his tourist visa for an anti-Muslim pogrom carried out while he was chief minister in Gujarat in 2002, Modi’s presence at Madison Square Garden sparked off the rapturous belligerence of 20,000 supporters. Since then, through events like “Howdy Modi” and “Namaste Trump”, Modi appears to have made America his second home and Donald Trump a buddy, a coming together of civilisations ancient and modern as well as a merger of two failed states with among the highest rates of Covid-19 infection in the world.


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan fires 12 police officers for failure to protect #Hindu temple in #Karak. Regional #KP government also suspended 33 other police officers for a year as punishment., offering sharp contrast to #India's #babriverdict. #Modi #BJP https://aje.io/4yvyh via @AJEnglish

Pakistani authorities have sacked a local police chief and 11 other policemen for failing to protect a Hindu temple that was set on fire and demolished last month by a mob led by hundreds of supporters of a religious party, police said.

The 12 policemen were fired on Thursday over acts of “cowardice, irresponsibility and negligence” for not trying to stop the mob when it attacked the temple, with some having fled the scene.

The regional government in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also suspended 33 other police officers for a year as punishment, provincial police chief Sanaullah Abbasi said.

The punishments come amid government assurances that the Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj Samadhi temple – situated in the remote village of Teri in Karak district, some 85km (53 miles) south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – would be rebuilt.

Last week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court also ordered the rebuilding of the temple, with the next hearing in the case set for January 19.


On December 30, about 2,000 men ransacked the historic temple built in 1920 and an adjacent Hindu shrine, destroying the compound and setting fire to it.


The mob led by a local Muslim leader was enraged by the renovation of a building adjacent to the temple that was recently bought by the Hindu community to facilitate visiting devotees.

The attack took place after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate the temple.

Pakistan is home to an estimated 3.5 million Hindus, who form a 1.6 percent minority of the country’s 207 million population, as per government figures.

More than 30 rioters, including the Muslim leader who allegedly incited the mob, have already been arrested after they were identified in videos of the attack uploaded online.

The arrested included supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, who are currently facing trials on various charges.

Although Muslims and Hindus generally live peacefully together in Pakistan, violence against the minority community often centres around the country’s strict, and heavily emotive, blasphemy laws.

Attacks on Hindu temples, while not common, have been increasing in frequency in recent years.

Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when the Indian subcontinent gained independence from the British rule, resulting in the formation of Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) renewed its designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern”, citing, among other reasons, “severely restricted freedom of religion or belief”.

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi’s bulldozing of #Indian parliament shows him as the architect of a #Hindu #Taliban . Flattening the majestic #Mughal -inspired buildings is the latest stage in a hateful, vanity-fuelled campaign to de-Islamify #India . #Islamophobia | The Guardian





https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/jun/04/modi-parliament-taliban-anish-kapoor







At the heart of New Delhi, the capital of India, sits a Mughal-inspired monument that houses the seat of the Indian parliament. Built by the British architect Edwin Lutyens between 1911 and 1931, the parliament buildings and their grand roadways and water channels follow the form established by the Islamic rulers of Iran and elaborated by the Islamic sultanate of Samarkand and the Mughal rulers of India.

Lutyens designed perhaps the most important Islamic-inspired edifice of modern times. The buildings quote architectural emblems from Hindu temples and palaces, but the grand plan follows the design of Mughal-Islamic landscape with a light nod to Roman triumphalism. It is, in my view, the greatest set of government buildings anywhere in the world.

Unsurprisingly, the Islamic origin of these buildings offends the current regime in Delhi. It is why the tyrant Modi and his henchmen are destroying it. As I write, the destruction is under way. It is an abomination that Modi’s hate-filled campaign to de-Islamify India is allowed to continue via the destruction of a world-class monument. Astonishingly, the UN heritage forum is silent and world heritage bodies have kept their mouths firmly closed. Are they afraid of Modi, or do they not care what happens in India?

Modi has appointed third-rate Bimal Patel as his architect. Patel will design its replacement much in the way that Albert Speer followed his F├╝hrer’s lead, but, of course, Patel does not have an iota of Speer’s talent.



This ideologically driven, hate-filled destruction follows the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 and the vandalism of Islamic and Mughal monuments all over India. Modi appears to want nothing less than the obliteration of all the Islamic monuments of India and the removal of the 200 million Indian Muslims. Let us not forget that he has already forcibly taken away Indian citizenship from many millions of Indian Muslims and rendered them stateless – a crime for which he has not been brought to book, even though India is a signatory to the UN declaration of human rights, of which citizenship is a central tenet.

The pretence that the destruction of this grand vista is justified by a lack of space for parliament is flimsy. The National Museum of India, which is housed in one of the buildings to be demolished, is to be moved to a space inadequate for its marvellous collections, putting at risk many invaluable and fragile works of art. All this will be done at breakneck speed in order to have the work finished before the end of Modi’s term in office. The Indian courts have been pressured to acquiesce to this idiotic scheme and journalists and other commentators have been intimidated.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan deploys paramilitary forces after #Hindu temple attacked by mob. Earlier, a cleric at the seminary told police he found a young Hindu boy in the building urinating on the ground. Police registered a case of #blasphemy, but did not name a suspect. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-deploys-paramilitary-forces-after-hindu-temple-attacked-by-mob-2021-08-05/


Pakistan deployed paramilitary forces in a central town on Thursday to check communal unrest after a mob ransacked and set fire to a Hindu temple.

Ahmad Nawaz, a spokesperson for the Rahimyar Khan district police, told Reuters that the mob attacked the temple in the town of Bhong after reports that a Hindu boy had urinated in the library of an Islamic seminary.

Nawaz added police were searching for the attackers, and trying to ascertain if a boy in custody suspected of desecrating the seminary was from the local Hindu community.

On July 24, a cleric at the seminary told police he found a young Hindu boy in the building urinating on the ground. Police registered a case of blasphemy, but did not name a suspect.


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Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and although no executions have been carried out, suspects are often killed by vigilantes.

The temple was attacked after someone posted details of the incident on social media on Wednesday, Ramesh Vankwani, a parliament member and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said on Twitter.

Police had the post deleted, Vankwani said, but a crowd gathered near the temple.

"Finally seeing the mob, even the police left, and I asked for (paramilitary) Rangers or the army to deploy, but by then the temple was destroyed and set on fire."


Vankwani shared videos showing hundreds of people heading for the single-story temple building. Dozens of men can be seen using sticks and iron beams to damage idols within the temple.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

Temples belonging to the minority Hindu population in Pakistan are often the target of mob violence. In December 2020, a large mob destroyed a century old Hindu temple in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province read more .

Pakistan ranked the highest globally in incidents of mob violence and criminal charges against those accused of blasphemy, according to a May report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which surveyed incidents between 2014 and 2018.

Riaz Haq said...

2,000-Year-Old #Buddhist #Temple Unearthed in #Swat Valley, #Pakistan. Barikot appears in classical Greek and Latin texts as “Bazira” or “Beira.” #Archaeology https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/2000-year-old-buddhist-temple-unearthed-in-pakistan-180979560/


The structure is one of the oldest of its kind in the Gandhara region

Archaeologists in northwest Pakistan’s Swat Valley have unearthed a roughly 2,000-year-old Buddhist temple that could be one of the oldest in the country, reports the Hindustan Times.

Located in the town of Barikot, the structure likely dates to the second century B.C.E., according to a statement. It was built atop an earlier Buddhist temple dated to as early as the third century B.C.E.—within a few hundred years of the death of Buddhism’s founder, Siddhartha Gautama, between 563 and 483 B.C.E., reports Tom Metcalfe for Live Science.

Luca Maria Olivieri, an archaeologist at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, led the dig in partnership with the International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (ISMEO). The excavation site is in the historical region of Gandhara, which Encyclopedia Britannica describes as “a trade crossroads and cultural meeting place between India, Central Asia and the Middle East.” Hindu, Buddhist and Indo-Greek rulers seized control of Gandhara at different points throughout the first millennium B.C.E., notes Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

The temple’s ruins stand around ten feet tall; they consist of a ceremonial platform that was once topped by a stupa, or dome often found on Buddhist shrines. At its peak, the temple boasted a smaller stupa at the front, a room or cell for monks, the podium of a column or pillar, a staircase, vestibule rooms, and a public courtyard that overlooked a road.

“The discovery of a great religious monument created at the time of the Indo-Greek kingdom testifies that this was an important and ancient center for cult and pilgrimage,” says Olivieri in the statement. “At that time, Swat already was a sacred land for Buddhism.”

In addition to the temple, the team unearthed coins, jewelry, statues, seals, pottery fragments and other ancient artifacts. Per the statement, the temple was likely abandoned in the third century C.E. following an earthquake.

Barikot appears in classical Greek and Latin texts as “Bazira” or “Beira.” Previous research suggests the town was active as early as 327 B.C.E., around the time that Alexander the Great invaded modern-day Pakistan and India. Because Barikot’s microclimate supports the harvest of grain and rice twice each year, the Macedonian leader relied on the town as a “breadbasket” of sorts, according to the statement.

Shortly after his death in 323, Alexander’s conquered territories were divided up among his generals. Around this time, Gandhara reverted back to Indian rule under the Mauryan Empire, which lasted from about 321 to 185 B.C.E.

Italian archaeologists have been digging in the Swat Valley since 1955. Since then, excavations in Barikot have revealed two other Buddhist sanctuaries along a road that connected the city center to the gates. The finds led the researchers to speculate that that they’d found a “street of temples,” the statement notes.

According to Live Science, Buddhism had gained traction in Gandhara by the reign of Menander I, around 150 B.C.E., but may have been practiced solely by the elite. Swat eventually emerged as a sacred Buddhist center under the Kushan Empire (30 to 400 C.E.), which stretched from Afghanistan to Pakistan and into northern India. At the time, Gandhara was known for its Greco-Buddhist style of art, which rendered Buddhist subjects with Greek techniques.

Riaz Haq said...

Thousands of mosques targeted as Hindu nationalists try to rewrite India’s history | India | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/30/thousands-of-mosques-targeted-as-hindu-nationalists-try-to-rewrite-indias-history

Shamsi Jama Masjid, an 800-year-old mosque in Uttar Pradesh, is the latest flashpoint in a dispute that could eventually turn violent


Hannah Ellis-Petersen in Uttar Pradesh
Sun 30 Oct 2022 01.00 EDT

In a small, darkened office in Budaun, where dusty legal books line the walls, two lawyers have fallen into a squabble. VP Singh and his taller associate BP Singh – no relation – are discussing Shamsi Jama Masjid, the mosque that has stood in this small town in Uttar Pradesh for 800 years.

According to the lawyers, this grand white-domed mosque, one of the largest and oldest in India, is not a mosque at all. “No no, this is a Hindu temple,” asserted BP Singh. “It’s a very holy place for Hindus.”

Records dating back to 1856 make reference to the working mosque, and according to local Muslims, they have been praying there undisturbed since it was built by Shamsuddin Iltutmish, a Muslim king, in 1223. The Singhs however, have a different version of events. In July, they filed a court case on behalf of a local Hindu farmer – and backed by the rightwing Hindu nationalist party Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) – alleging that Shamsi Jama Masjid is not a mosque but an “illegal structure” built on a destroyed 10th-century Hindu temple for the god Shiva. Their petition states that Hindus have rightful ownership of the land and should be able to pray there.

Except, the two bickering lawyers can’t quite agree on the historical facts. BP Singh initially claimed that the original Hindu temple was destroyed by a Muslim tyrant king – but then VP Singh contradicts him.

“Not destroyed, altered,” said VP Singh. “Most of the original Hindu temple is still there.” They claim as evidence a lotus flower painted on the inside of the mosque dome. But when the Observer was given access to the mosque, there was no such Hindu motif, and instead it was the calligraphy of a Qur’anic verse. There was also no sign of an alleged “hidden locked room filled with Hindu idols” in the mosque, which VP Singh claimed he had seen in the 1970s as a child. Instead, the room in question was a store cupboard, filled with cleaning materials and prayer mats.

The pair also could not settle on exactly when Shamsi Jama Masjid, which they refuse to call a mosque, began to be used by Muslims for prayer five times a day as it is today. After BP Singh stated that Muslims were praying there up till the 1800s, VP Singh leaned over to mutter quietly to his associate: “No no don’t say that, don’t say that.”

More loudly, VP Singh then proclaimed: “Actually no this wasn’t a mosque, it was never used for namaz [Muslim prayer] until recently when the Muslims forcibly occupied it and tried to convert it into a mosque.” They claimed to have “proof” but were unable to find it.

“When the Muslims ruled, we Hindus were all persecuted, we were killed and tortured,” added BP Singh. “Now we are taking back what is rightfully ours.”

The case has been met by puzzlement from local Muslims, who are contesting it in court. “How can you claim this is not a mosque?,” said Anwer Alam, legal counsel for the mosque committee, pointing up to the imposing white domes. “No Hindu has ever prayed at this mosque since its inception 800 years ago. This suit has no legal grounds.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Preserves Its Buddhist Heritage Amidst Grave Challenges

https://www.eurasiareview.com/22122022-pakistan-preserves-its-buddhist-heritage-amidst-grave-challenges/

Despite an ever-present and growing threat from an iconoclastic fringe in Pakistan, successive governments in Islamabad have managed to preserve the Islamic country’s Buddhist heritage that exists as archaeological findings.

This is all the more creditable since the remnants of 2,200-year-old Gandhara Buddhist civilization are still substantially intact in the Swat Valley of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPK) though KPK is the epicenter of present-day Islamic terrorism. Among Pakistan’s provinces, it is the KPK which bears the brunt of the fury of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Interestingly, news of the discovery of a 2200 year-old Buddhist temple at Barikot in KPK (counted among the “Top 10 Discoveries of 2022” by Archeology Magazine) came as TTP gunmen and Pakistani commandoes fought a pitched battle at Bannu, a town in KPK. 33 terrorists and two commandoes were killed in the shootout.

According to Sana Jamal of Gulf News, the 2nd Century BC temple at Barikot was discovered jointly by archaeology professor, Luca Maria Olivieri of Ca’ Foscari of the University of Venice, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums KP Province, and the Swat Museum. It is the oldest known Buddhist temple in the Swat region that was a center for the exchange of goods and culture between the civilizations of the Middle East, Central Asia and India from 6th Century BC.

“The temple’s ruins are around ten feet tall and consist of a ceremonial platform that once housed a stupa or dome often found in Buddhist architecture. The structure includes a smaller stupa at the front, a room or cell for monks, a podium or pillar, a staircase, vestibule rooms, and a public courtyard that overlooks a road,” Jamal says. A stupa is a Buddhist structure containing holy relics.

Swat is also home to the renowned Dharmarajika stupa, locally known as Chir Tope, located near Taxila, a seat of Buddhist learning between the 3 rd., Century BC and 7th.Century AD.

Pakistan has been working hard to let the world know of its pre-Islamic past, which includes Mohenjodaro of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, the Buddhist University at Taxila, Gandhara art and Buddhist stupas containing sacred relics.

During the tenure of Pakistan High Commissioner Seema Baloch in Sri Lanka (2011-13), Pakistani Buddhist relics were, for the first time, brought to Sri Lanka and publicly exhibited at various places in the island. A group of 40 Buddhist monks were taken to see sites of Buddhist interest in Pakistan. This did help correct (albeit only to a small extent), the image that Pakistan had nothing to offer Buddhists and had little or nothing to do with Buddhism.

In June 2016, Pakistan High Commission held an exhibition of Gandhara Art in Colombo, in which coffee-table books in both English and Sinhala sold like hotcakes. “I had to bring in replenishments from the High Commission several times to meet the constant demand,” remarked the then Press Attache, Intesar Ahmad Sulehry. Later the High Commission showed a documentary on Gandhara Art jointly made by a group of Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Indians.

Pakistan is now 95% Muslim and Islam is the official religion, but Buddhism once flourished in the KPK, then called Gandhara. The region was subject to Achaemenian Persia in the 6th and 5th centuries BC and was conquered by Alexander the Great in 4th Century BC. It was thereafter ruled by the Mauryan dynasty of India, under which it became a center for the spread of Buddhism to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Gandhara was successively ruled by Indo-Greeks, Shakas, Parthians, and Kushans. After its conquest by Mahmud of Gazni in 11th century AD , it came under a series of Muslim dynasties.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Preserves Its Buddhist Heritage Amidst Grave Challenges

https://www.eurasiareview.com/22122022-pakistan-preserves-its-buddhist-heritage-amidst-grave-challenges/


Gandhara was the home of a distinctive art style that was a mixture of Indian Buddhist and Greco-Roman influences. Depictions of the Buddha and Bodhisatvas (Enlightened Beings) were the mainstay of Gandhara art. Sculptures that have survived the ravages of time and the depredations of iconoclasts, show various aspects of the Buddha’s life.

However, it is the representation of the Buddha in human form that went on to influence art in China, Japan, Korea, and other parts of East Asia. It is said that the Gandhara region has the world’s only statue of a “fasting Buddha” – a Buddha in skin and bones with ribs jutting out.

The ancient Buddhist sites and the art therein, which had been neglected for centuries, were discovered by British archeologists in the colonial period. Their work was continued by Pakistani archeologists after independence in 1947. Successive Pakistani governments, except the one led by Gen.Zia-ul-Haq (1978-88), had sustained the archeological and conservation projects.

However, in 2006-2007, the Taliban banned the preservation of these objects because even the existence of idols in the midst of Muslims was “haram” or forbidden. The Taliban damaged the face of a giant Buddha statue in Swat. However, the then President, Gen.Pervez Musharraf, stood like a rock behind the conservationists and negotiated the withdrawal of the Taliban from their destructive project. Archeologists and art lovers in Pakistan and abroad breathed a sigh of relief.

Pakistan also started exhibiting Gandhara art in various places in the world, including the US. At an exhibition in New York of Gandhara art brought from the Lahore and Karachi museums, the then Pakistani Ambassador in the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, waxed eloquent about the Buddha. He said that the Buddha was a human being whose “ethereal qualities and enormous wisdom showed the path to several others like Gandhi down the centuries.”

In 2016, Pakistani archeologists discovered an ancient site at Bhamala in Swat in which there was a 14 meter (48 ft) long Kanjur stone “Sleeping Buddha” statue. This 3 rd.Century AD statue is the world’s oldest Sleeping Buddha statue.

When the finding was presented to the world, the President of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party, Imran Khan, said: ” It is a world heritage site and because of that, people will come for religious tourism and see these places. The majority of the Pakistani population wants such sites restored.”

Apart from the government, individual Pakistanis have also rendered yeoman service in preserving and protecting Buddhist sites against depredations by idol thieves and smugglers. Osman Ulasyar had stopped local boys from playing cricket in a field full of Ist. Centry AD Buddhist stupas. And, at this own cost, he built a 300 ft wall to protect the stupas.

Reuters quoted Dr.Abdul Samad, Director of Archeology and Museums in Khyber Pakhtunwala province as saying: ” Gandhara was the center of religious harmony. It is here that one finds Greek, Roman, Persian, Hindu and Buddhist gods in a single panel in the Peshawar museum.”

But tragically, the common Pakistani’s awareness of his non-Islamic past is either non-existent or pathetically low because school history books have blacked out the pre-Islamic past. This grievous flaw will need to be corrected at the earliest in the interest of the preservation of Gandhara art and the enormous tourist potential which is in it.

The other danger that lurks constantly, is the destruction, stealing and smuggling of ancient artifacts by treasure thieves. The government has armed itself with the Antiquities Act to protect the sites and also to prevent domestic and international sale of these antiquities. Success in this area is by no means insignificant since the Gandhara sites are still there for all to see. Many of the artefacts are kept safely in museums.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan arrests 129 #Muslims after mob attacks on churches and homes of minority #Christians. The violence drew nationwide condemnation, and caretaker Prime Minister Kakar ordered police to ensure rioters were arrested. #violence #Jaranwala https://apnews.com/article/pakistan-churches-christians-attacked-blasphemy-43ef3eea286f5da8f269d1f12f524b85

Police arrested 129 Muslims after a mob angered by an alleged Quran desecration attacked a dozen churches and nearly two dozen homes of minority Christians, officials said Thursday. Police also arrested two Christian men accused of defacing Islam’s holy book.

The alleged desecration set off a violent rampage Wednesday in Jaranwala, causing Christians to flee to safer places in the eastern city as the mob inflicted one of the country’s most destructive attacks on Christians.

The city police chief, Bilal Mehmood, said officers arrested Raja Amir and a friend who were accused by local Muslims of tearing pages from a Quran, writing insulting remarks on other pages and then throwing the book on the ground.


The regional police chief, Rizwan Khan, said 129 people had been arrested as suspected rioters and the situation was under control. Authorities summoned soldiers to restore order, and Christian residents slowly returned home to see the destruction Thursday.

“We were sitting at home when suddenly we heard that a mob is coming and it is burning homes and attacking churches,” Shazia Amjad said as she wept outside her charred home.

She said that the mob burned household items and furniture and that some of her possessions were stolen while she was staying with her family in a safer area.

Other Christians described similar ordeals and expressed bewilderment.

Azeem Masih wept as he sat outsisitting outside his home, which was one of several buildings burned on his street. He said some rioters brought in vehicles to haul away Christians’ household items after burning furniture and other belongings.


“Why did they do it to us? We had not done anything wrong,” he said.

Local priest Khalid Mukhtar said he believed most of Jaranwala’s 17 churches were attacked and his own home was damaged.

Government officials said all of the damaged churches and homes would be repaired within a week and those who suffered losses would be compensated.

The violence drew nationwide condemnation, and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-ul-Haq Kakar ordered police to ensure rioters were arrested.

The regional police chief said the mob quickly gathered and began attacking churches and Christian homes. Rioters also assaulted the offices of a city administrator, but police intervened, shooting into the air and wielding batons to disperse the attackers with the help of Muslim clerics and elders.

Videos and photos posted on social media show a throng of angry people descending on a church, throwing pieces of bricks and setting it on fire. In another video, four other churches are attacked, their windows broken as attackers throw pieces of furniture outside and set them on fire.

In another video, a man is seen climbing to the roof of a church and removing a steel cross after repeatedly hitting it with a hammer as a crowd cheers him on.

The violence drew condemnation from domestic and international human rights groups.

Amnesty International called for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, often just an accusation can incite mobs to violence, lynchings and killings.

Rghts groups say blasphemy allegations have been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

Vedant Patel, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, urged Pakistan to conduct a full investigation. “We support peaceful freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion and belief for everybody,” he said in Washington on Wednesday.