Friday, August 4, 2017
By - Cassady Rosenblum
A boat carrying 140 Somali refugees was traveling from Yemen to Sudan in the dark, early hours of March 17 when suddenly an Apache helicopter appeared overhead. Hovering over the bodies huddled on the deck below, it opened fire, killing 42 people on board.
“I knew too well that my daughter was between life and death when she went on this journey,” Sahara Osman, the mother of one of the victims told Al Jazeera. “But I have never heard of missiles raining on civilians on a boat.”
Last week, a United Nations investigation accused the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen of firing those missiles. But are the coalition countries alone to blame? After all, the United States supplies billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment used in the fighting. In 2016, for example, the United States sold $3.5 billion worth of Apache helicopters to the United Arab Emirates, a coalition member that has naval forces in the area where the missiles were fired in March. The U.S. regularly makes similar weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, all of whom are coalition members.
Since 2015, Human Rights Watch has documented 81 apparently unlawful coalition strikes in Yemen and found U.S.-supplied weaponry at 23 of those sites, including the March 2016 Mastaba market attack which killed at least 97 civilians, and the October 2016 attack on a funeral service in Sana, which killed at least 100 people and wounded more than 500. Other unlawful coalition strikes have destroyed farms, factories and warehouses that produced or distributed goods such as food and medicine. As a result, cholera and food shortages have consumed the country; according to the World Health Organization, 400,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in the last three months alone, and 2 million children are acutely malnourished.
Nevertheless, Congress approved an additional $500-million sale of weapons to the Saudis in June.
If moral concerns don’t give Congress pause, perhaps legal concerns should. According to Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor and former special counsel at the Department of Defense, the provision of weapons — and the knowledge that they are being misused — creates “substantial legal risk” for the United States. Even if the U.S. did not intend to promote war crimes, it could be guilty of aiding and abetting them, Goodman said. In other words, if the U.N. discovered that U.S. helicopters were used in the attack, U.S. officials could conceivably be in violation of international law.
It would not be the first time a country or its leaders were accused of facilitating war crimes carried out in a foreign land by someone else. In 2015, Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, was convicted of aiding and abetting some 11 war crimes that occurred in Sierra Leone, making him the first former head of state to be convicted by an international tribunal since Karl Donitz at the Nuremberg trials.
Although it may feel like a stretch to compare an American bureaucrat in Washington to a notorious African warlord like Taylor, State Department lawyers, advising the Obama administration before it went through with a $1.3-billion weapons sale to the Saudis in 2015, did just that in considering the legal ramifications of selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
Whether the Saudis were intentionally targeting civilians or not may not matter when it comes to the U.S.’ legal responsibility. According to Brian Finucane, an attorney-advisor for political-military affairs at the U.S. State Department, if a state knows that a country shopping for weapons doesn’t have the technical training or discipline to avoid inflicting civilian casualties, but it makes the sale anyway, such a transfer could be characterized as reckless, and officials in the selling country could be held criminally liable. In the case of the Saudis, the State Department knew they were unprepared. "The strikes are not intentionally indiscriminate but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles," a State Department official told a private human rights group in 2015.
Ultimately, the Senate decided to ignore the legal arguments and approved the weapons sale to the Saudis (by a vote of 71 to 27) last September. It did so again narrowly (53 to 47) this June. Whatever reticence some senators expressed may have been alleviated in part by the knowledge that it would be difficult for the international community to bring a war crimes charge. The U.S. would probably ignore any investigation by the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, which normally oversee such cases. In 1986, the ICJ ruled that the U.S. had violated Nicaragua’s sovereignty when it supported the Contra rebels there and planted mines in its harbors. After the Court decided it had jurisdiction over the case, the U.S. backed out. The U.N. attempted to enforce the decision, but the U.S. used its seat on the Security Council to block the effort.
Similarly, the ICC is out of the question because Yemen — where the offenses are occurring — has not ratified the Rome Statute, which created it. According to Beth Van Schaack, who is a visiting professor of human rights at Stanford Law School, the Security Council could refer the situation in Yemen to the ICC, but again, the U.S. would probably block the referral vote, as Russia has done with respect to Syria.
Whether it be liability concerns or just humanitarian ones, some members of Congress are working to distance the United States from the devastation the coalition is causing in Yemen.
This month, the House added three amendments to the proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 that, if approved by the Senate, would rein in U.S. participation in Yemen. Two of the amendments would in effect block U.S. refueling of Saudi and UAE warplanes bombing in Yemen. A third, by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), would require the State and Defense departments to report to Congress on whether the Saudis are following their commitment to bomb fewer civilians in Yemen. In return for the $500-million weapons sale in June, the Saudis promised to launch a $750-million multiyear training program to teach their air force how to avoid civilian casualties.
The Senate should embrace these amendments, but lawmakers also need to start asking themselves harder questions about whom the U.S. chooses to befriend in the Middle East and why. Any country that intentionally or recklessly attacks a boat carrying unarmed refugees to safer shores is not an ally that shares our values. We can’t afford to let our relationship with the Saudi kingdom and its satellites become more of a liability than an asset.
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Munir al-Adam spends his hours alone in a Saudi prison, his mother says. He doesn’t know if it is day or night because he is kept mostly in a dark cell. Partially blind and partially deaf, he has experienced different forms of torture in the five years since his arrest.
“He has been ordered to stand for long intervals of time,” said his mother, Zahraa Abdullah. “He was beaten with sticks and cables. He was electrocuted and prevented from eating or going to the bathroom.”
Adam and 13 other Saudi men are facing execution any day now for allegedly staging protests in the kingdom. All from the country’s Shiite minority, they include a teenager who was arrested just before he was to board a flight to visit a U.S. college where he planned to study English and finance.
The men were charged with terrorism-related offenses. But human rights activists and American academics say confessions from the defendants were extracted under torture and that the death sentences breach international law. Activists have launched a public appeal to Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to dismiss the sentences.
Saudi Justice Ministry officials said Thursday that they planned to issue a statement soon about the cases. Saudi officials have said previously through state-run media that the men staged attacks on checkpoints and patrols, killing several members of the security forces.
The sentences are a sign of the deepening tensions between Saudi Arabia’s Sunni elite and Shiite Muslims at home and in the region. In neighboring Yemen, the kingdom is engaged in a costly war against Shiite Houthi rebels said to be backed by Iran’s Shiite theocracy, Saudi Arabia’s top regional rival. The Saudi-led campaign to isolate Sunni-led Qatar is partly over the Persian Gulf nation’s close ties with Iran.
At home, Shiites have long complained of discrimination. As the Arab Spring revolts erupted six years ago, thousands staged demonstrations mainly in eastern Saudi Arabia’s heavily Shiite-populated regions to demand more rights and access to government services. But the kingdom’s rulers viewed the uprisings as a threat, accusing protesters of aligning themselves with Iran. In recent weeks, confrontations between Shiites and government forces in a restive eastern area have grown more violent.
The 14 men on death row have been charged with offenses related to attending demonstrations. They were sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court, which, according to the Britain-based human rights group Reprieve, “used confessions extracted through torture as the basis of convictions.”
For more than a decade, Saudi Arabia has been among the top five countries globally for the large number of executions it carries out, mostly through beheadings and stonings. More than 300 people have been executed in the past two years, human rights activists say. The death penalty is regularly imposed for nonviolent crimes, including drug possession and adultery.
Two weeks ago, the 14 men were moved to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, a sign that their executions were nearing. At least one juvenile and several young protesters are among the group, according to Reprieve. They include Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, who was arrested at an airport in December 2012 as he was leaving the country to visit the campus of Western Michigan University.
Sweikat, 17 at the time, was not given a reason for his arrest and has been in prison ever since. He was convicted without having access to legal representation, according to human rights activists.
In a July 22 statement, faculty and administrators of Western Michigan University said Sweikat was “subject to sleep deprivations, beatings, cigarette burns, solitary confinement and others forms of torture or suffering.” He was sentenced to death “on the sole basis of a confession extracted by torture,” they added, citing the findings of the U.N. human rights office
“President Donald J. Trump and other U.S. officials should be robust and vocal in defending freedom of expression the world over,” read the statement. “If U.S. citizens stay silent as another country attacks this freedom, we undermine the very foundations of democracy.” Adam was arrested in March 2012 at a shop in the eastern town of Awamiyah. Police accused him of confronting them and took him to jail. He was 18 at the time and was tortured in his first three months in detention, said his mother, who answered questions via text messaging. She last spoke to him in June, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Now, every day is consumed by one fear.
“The date of the execution is not known,” she said. “I call upon every influential person to save my son’s life.”
The Middle East Eye news portal cited activists as saying that authorities have resorted to compulsory evictions in and around the historic al-Mosara district of Awamyiah.
The residents, according to the activists, have been driven out of their homes, while their property has been confiscated by private development firms.
The report also published an image showing a requisition order pinned to a house in the district of al-Shweikah, close to al-Mosara, which was issued by a private company with the authorization of the so-called National Joint Counterterrorism Command (NJCC).
Reports coming out of the town say Saudi military forces have been firing randomly at homes and cars in Awamiyah, destroying or setting fire to several houses and shops.
Amateur videos circulating on the Internet shows the city has been reduced to rubble, with activists saying those left inside are suffering from a lack of electricity, water, rubbish collection or fire services.
“There is a plan for forced displacement,” said Ameen Nemer, a Saudi activist originally from Awamiya. “It doesn’t matter where these people will end up.”
Awamiyah, located in the eastern Qatif region, has been under military lockdown since May, when Saudi troops began destroying al-Mosara.
Awamiyah, located in the eastern Qatif region, has been under military lockdown since May, when Saudi troops began destroying al-Mosara.
Riyadh claims al-Mosara has become a hideout for “militants,” who are behind attacks on security forces in Eastern Province, but locals and the United Nations say the regime is after erasing cultural heritage in the Shia town and redeveloping the area.
Some eight people have been killed by the Saudi military in the town over the past days.
On Wednesday, Saudi police opened fire on a bus transporting people who were trying to flee the town, killing a civilian.
Nemer further said the regime is pursuing a politically-motivated project to depopulate and destroy the Shia town.
“It has nothing to do with al-Mosara and development, it has to do with punishing this town for being vocal for calling for rights, calling for reforms since 2011.”Since 2011, Eastern Province has been the scene of anti-regime demonstrations, with the protesters calling for freedom of speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination exercise by authorities.
Press TV has interviewed Catherine Shakdam, director of Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern studies in London, and Jihad Mouracadeh, a political analyst from Beirut to get their takes on how Saudi policies are affecting the situation in the Middle East.
“Saudi Arabia is the root of all evil today,” Shakdam told Press TV’s program 'The Debate' on Monday night, adding that Saudi rulers have set people against each other for the sake of sectarianism, so that they can impose their own authority over not only the Middle East, but the entire Islamic world. "Saudi Arabia wants to impose Wahhabism onto nations across the world, because it wants to obliterate people’s right to religious freedom," she added.
The analyst believes that Saudi Arabia has committed inexcusable genocide against Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and many other nations, saying the Arab monarchy has repressed people and communities in the name of Wahhabism.
Shakdam says the Yemeni resistance movement [Houthi fighters] are today standing without shoes and weapons on the Yemeni ground which Saudi Arabia has claimed for itself.
According to Shakdam, democracy by definition means allowing people to elect their own leaders. She argued that staying long enough on the throne does not make a government legal or legitimate, by which standard the Al Khalifah regime is a dictatorship, despite having ruled Bahrain for hundreds of years.
When asked about the so-called strategic partnership between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Shakdam described it as the marriage of Zionism and Wahhabism. The alliance between “two monsters” is going to create “an evil,” which is never going to help Palestinians who are under occupation and have been denied the right to choose for themselves, she stated.
The other guest attending Press TV's program 'The Debate' was Mouracadeh. He believes that Saudi Arabia is doing a great job by working in tandem with the United Nations to secure peace and stability in the region. Criticizing Yemen's Houthi fighters, he said that they were the ones to move against the government in Yemen. He justified the Saudi aggression on Yemen as being conducted in coordination with the United Nations.
Mouracadeh also expressed his full support for the alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia. "If Saudis' relationship with Israel can help the Palestinian question and find a solution to the issue, it will be extremely powerful and the best deal that could ever happen to Palestinians," he opined.
With reports from Pakistan suggesting that the Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed is looking to get his organisation JuD registered as a political party ahead of Pakistan elections, India on Friday reminded Islamabad that Pakistan was under international obligation to ensure that Saeed wasn't allowed to conduct his activities freely.
Describing the reports as a matter of concern, the government said that a man who is known to trade in bullets was now seeking to hide behind the ballot. "Regarding the aspect of political parties, it appears that the person whose hands are stained with blood of innocent lives is using ballot ink to hide them. The person who has traded in bullets wants to hide behind ballot. This is a matter of concern," said MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay. The government said that Saeed was an internationally designated terrorist under the UN 1267 provisions and his organisations, whether JuD or LeT, are one and the same. "They have been carrying out terrorist activities not just against India but also others in the region," said the official.
"We hear from media reports that he has been put under some kind of house arrest, but it is very well known that he and his colleagues and also his organisation have enjoyed freedom in Pakistan to conduct terrorist activities against India and others. This is a matter of concern for us," he added.
According to Pakistan media reports, Saeed is likely to rename JuD as Milli Muslim League and launch the new "political party" on Pakistan's Independence Day later this month. Despite Pakistan having officially extended his house arrest, Saeed has had the freedom to conduct his usual activities, including the liberty to regularly hold meetings with his supporters. "It is Pakistan's obligation, obviously, to make sure that such individuals and organisations are not able to enjoy the freedom to conduct terrorist activities. Pakistan must also ensure that international sanctions on these individuals and organisations are enforced 100%," said Baglay.
Saeed has been under house arrest since January 31. The Punjab government last week extended his house arrest for another two months.
By Asma Humayun
PARACHINAR’S experience with terrorism is endemic and compounded by divisive sectarianism. This year, 121 people have been killed and hundreds injured as a result of militancy. Recent media reports have drawn attention to the plight of its population and, subsequently, a team of mental health professionals travelled to Parachinar to conduct a thorough assessment. Their findings are worrying. Almost half the population suffers from mental trauma and a pronounced sense of insecurity, resulting in loss of sleep, concentration and of peace of mind. The media reports high rates of post traumatic stress disorder in Parachinar. Technically, this is not entirely correct; the victims should, instead, be said to suffer from stress-related conditions that include, but are not limited to, PTSD.
After any humanitarian emergency, the prevalence of mental illness is estimated to be up to 20 per cent. In Parachinar, however, this may be even higher. Perhaps most alarming is the very high suicide rate among young adults. According to an official source, nearly 100 people commit suicide every year. The most common method is to overdose on organophosphate tablets, widely available as pesticides. Most of these suicides are generally attributed to psychosocial adversity like oppression or poverty. However, research has clearly established that over 90pc of suicides in Pakistan are the result of untreated mental disorders, thus potentially preventable.
Children have also been severely affected by the ongoing violence. Furthermore, the prevalence of learning disabilities is startling. Amongst those interviewed, the most common causes seemed to be perinatal brain injury, infections and anomalies caused by generations of intermarriages. It is disturbing because all these disabilities are preventable. A significant number of these children also suffer from epilepsy, but remain untreated.
The mental health dilemmas need to be understood in the context of the Pakhtun tribal culture caught up in protracted armed conflicts. Bound by Pakhtunwali, these simple, sincere and resilient people have been facing multifarious conflicts. Security threats and violent invasion of their lives has hurt their self-esteem and trust. As thousands of young men have immigrated to developed countries, exposure to Western ways confronts their traditional lifestyles. Despite a high literacy rate, tribal mindsets are still resistant to women’s empowerment. As an example, there is an active blood bank in Parachinar, but women, who comprise 48pc of the adult population, are not allowed to donate blood.
Violence has compounded the mental health crisis.
There is a glaring lack of mental health awareness in the community, which is largely oblivious to even general health risks such as malnutrition, sexual and reproductive issues, and the transmission of blood-borne infections. Primary care physicians in Parachinar are few, overworked and lack basic knowledge about mental disorders. Cases of deliberate overdose are treated simply with stomach washes, without even a rudimentary mental health assessment. Further, there is a trend of prescribing sleeping tablets without awareness of their addictive potential. Even young children are being sedated with these drugs.
At the moment, there is no specialist mental health service, or even a qualified psychiatrist, in Kurram Agency. Instead of any preventive or rehabilitative service for drug dependence, there is a private facility for detoxification, in reality a little more than a centre of quackery. Patients who can afford to travel to major cities for treatment are misguided into paying for expensive, unnecessary investigations. In addition, there is no continuity of care because of inadequate follow-up. From these findings, one thing is clear: the toll that mental disorders are taking on individuals, their families and Parachinar society is immense.
So what is the way forward? Instead of the usual trend of offering instant, unsustainable ‘therapies’, it is time that a coordinated, scientific mental health and psychosocial support initiative is launched in Parachinar. The army has secured the agency; the local political leadership is receptive; healthcare professionals are conscious; most importantly, the community is amenable.
The World Health Organisation has clear guidelines for providing psychosocial care and setting up mental health services in the context of poorly resourced settings facing humanitarian challenges. Informal support systems can be strengthened effectively through community- and school-based initiatives. The local media, mobile phones and popular Facebook forums are all ideal modalities to raise awareness about mental health issues. Key community members including teachers need to be trained to deliver basic psychological first aid. Primary care staff should be trained and supervised to recognise and treat common mental disorders. Essential standard medicines must be made available. Finally, formal referral links need to be established between local healthcare facilities and specialist mental health services in the public sector.
Khadija Siddiqui was one of the ‘lucky’ ones. She saw justice served.
This is what it has come to. This is how we are forced to define ‘luck’ in today’s democratic Pakistan — a democratic Pakistan that certain quarters wish to defend from the overpowering reach of the courts. To them, we suggest that they are standing the wrong way before the looking glass.
Kainat Bibi was not lucky. She is dead. After suffering years of repeated rape by a ‘man’ who had promised marriage. The last six months being excruciatingly torturous for the 21-year-old Punjabi villager. This ‘man’ decided to murder her. In one of the cruellest ways possible: forcing a bottle of acid down her throat. It took Kainat six months to die and her permanently damaged vocal chords left her unable to speak. And now she is dead. While her murderer-rapist roams free. The court let him out on bail. It is said here in this country that influence may buy one freedom.
To those who say Pakistan has a democracy worth saving, we say: you are no longer standing the wrong way before the looking glass. You have fallen through. What democracy do you talk of when the perpetuators of violence against the two biggest global icons of Pakistani women’s resilience — Mukhtaran Mai and Malala Yousafzai — have never been brought to account?
We say, we don’t need this version of democracy. Education for our girls, that is something we need. Education for families, too. This is something that Mukhtaran Mai has long identified as the crucial link in the fight for democracy. Recalling her own ordeal, she has often noted that apart from her mother, her own family had initially not supported her going to the police — and later to the courts — against the men who gang raped her for an alleged crime by another’s hand. This she says is because they were uneducated. For where there is lack of awareness — there can only be darkness and fear. She has similarly spoken out about the need for education in terms of knowing one’s rights. Of knowing when and how one is signing away one’s life to blind justice with the simple print of a thumb.
We also need to educate society as a whole to respect that women and their bodies are not commodities to be bartered on the open market. We need to do this so that no more are we home to a country that sees a young girl have acid thrown on her by her parents afraid of where her looking out of the window at a boy on a motorbike may lead. And one place to start is doing away with the false East-West dichotomy. Meaning ridding ourselves of the presumed narratives pitting so-called decadent ‘westernised’ values against manufactured ‘eastern’ conservatism. In short, a return to the human prism is needed, a feminist prism of the intersectional kind. One that seeks not to stereotype Pakistan as a regressive backward Muslim backwater. But one that recognises how women all over the world face the same torment at the hands of the patriarchy. For it is the latter that must be smashed. Not women.
By Farhan Janjua
But who is she and what does she have to do with Ayesha? Well, Maria is Ayesha Gulalai’s sister.
She has been in the news before mainly because she’s the girl who defied tribal frowning upon women playing sport and went on to become a professional squash player.
After Ayesha, it’s Maria who’s been at the receiving end of trolling on social media – some of which is severe enough to tantamount to cyber bullying and harassment.
Maria first made it to the news in 2013 when her inspiring story of how she disguised as a boy just so she could continue her squash training went viral and was featured on international media.
"I was born in Waziristan, Pakistan, a remote region commonly referred to as the ‘most dangerous place on earth’. Girls rarely go to school and certainly don’t place sports. But, I grew up differently from other girls. At the age of four, I burnt all her dresses, cut my hair, put on my brother’s clothes and began to live life as a boy. My father, a strong advocate for equal rights and opportunities for men and women, pushed tradition aside and allowed me to live disguised in order to flourish as an athlete. When I was 12 years old, still disguised as a boy, I was ranked #2 in all of Pakistan for weightlifting in the junior division. Then I discovered squash. When the local squash academy in Peshawar required a birth certificate, my true identity was revealed. Fortunately the director shared the same values as my father and handed me a racquet," Maria’s quote as featured on her website.
Soon after her secret was outed, Maria and her family started receiving death threats from Taliban making it impossible for her to continue competing. This is when she was restricted to the bounds of her home.
Instead of giving up, Maria kept training on the walls of her own bedroom while writing for sponsorship to squash clubs abroad. She is quoted as saying she sent thousands of emails to squash clubs and other relevant groups and individuals who could sponsor her and facilitate her moving out of the country.
Then there was finally a breakthrough. Maria was invited by Jonathan Power who has held titles including “World Number 1” in squash to train with him in Toronto. She hasn’t looked back since then.
While still living and training in Canada, Maria now ranks 83rd in the world and still plays for Pakistan. She said in an interview that she wants to win big titles for Pakistan.
Maria describes her struggle with these words on her website: "Most of the time when I reflect on my life, I don’t believe it. I was born a regular tribal girl unable to leave the house and today I am a professional squash player. My family has been my greatest support. My father’s love, friendship and teachings helped me navigate through a world of oppression. Even Taliban death threats couldn’t stop me. Today I am happy and living my dream. I overcame fear and didn’t compromise. I am stronger than ever before and more determined to bring positive change to the world through education, sports and healthcare."
The political circles in Pakistan and trolls both online and offline continue to present a disturbing picture by bringing Maria Toorpakai into it and attacking her for how she dresses. Fawwad Chaudhry and others should know, they are only making it worse by continuing these attacks. Maria Toorpakai Wazir is and will remain a pride for Pakistan.
In the political arena of Pakistan, something depressing comes to the surface every day. The recent addition to this is the resignation of PTI’s MNA, Ayesha Gulalai. She left the party accusing its top leadership of male chauvinism and levelling allegations of corruption against Pervaiz Khattak, Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Jehangir Tareen. In her press conference, she also accused Imran Khan of harassment.
Whether what Ayesha Gulalai said against Imran Khan is right or wrong, the burden of proof lies on her. Under normal circumstances, the onus lies on the accuser to bring up evidence, however, Ms Gulalai was – only days ago – part of a party that has made a habit of demanding otherwise. This series of events warrants a closer look at the political culture of the country and the direction our society is heading into.
It is heart-wrenching to see the way PTI leadership is accusing Ms Gulalai as the archetype of opportunism. The overall mood of the people shows how immature we become politically when our ideals are challenged.
Indeed, the whole fiasco has disclosed the ugly side of our society’s thinking. Soon after Gulalai ended her press conference, a grisly surge of the social media campaign against her and her family erupted. People started passing moral judgments against her and her family.
Gulalai is not alone. Before her, Naz Baloch also left PTI for prevalent male chauvinism in the party. Whether there is male chauvinism in the party or not, one thing is clear, the systemic naming and shaming of Gulalai indicates that the society is engulfed with thick layers of male chauvinism and political parties often condone this.
Imran has yet to clarify his position on the whole issue. The fact that Imran is largely responsible for the way his supporters are dealing with the matter cannot be ignored either. Throughout these last four years, Imran has never ever stopped his supporters from abusing and assaulting his political opponents; instead, he has led them with example. In the present case, too, Imran is silent on the hatred that his supporters are showing to Gulalai on social media. His silence on the issue is tantamount to tacit approval.
Pakistani high school student Noman Afzal knows ‘traitorous’ Hindus are to blame for the bloodshed that erupted when British India split into two nations 70 years ago. His history textbook tells him so.
Students across the border in India are taught a starkly different version of events, the result of a decades-long effort by the nuclear-armed rivals to shape and control history to their own nationalistic narrative.
The official unwillingness to confront the bitter legacy of Partition — and the skewed portrayals being peddled in classrooms from New Delhi to Karachi — is hindering any hope of reconciliation between the arch-rivals, experts say. August marks 70 years since the subcontinent was divided into two independent states — Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan — and millions were uprooted in one of the largest mass migrations in history.
An untold number of people — some estimates say up two million — died in the savage violence that followed, as Hindus and Muslims fleeing for their new homelands turned on one another, raping and butchering in genocidal retribution.
The carnage sowed the seeds for the acrimony that prevails today between India and Pakistan, and generations later this defining moment in the subcontinent’s history is still polarised by nationalism and rancour. In a government-approved grade five history textbook used in schools in Balochistan, Hindus are described as ‘thugs’ who “massacred Muslims, confiscated their property, and forced them to leave India”.
“They looked down upon us, that is why we created Pakistan,” said 17-year-old Afzal from Pakistan’s Punjab province, reeling off a stock answer from his history textbook.
On the other side of the border, Mumbai schoolboy Triaksh Mitra learned how Mahatma Gandhi fought for a unified India free from British subjugation while the Muslim League — the political party led by Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah — sided with the colonial rulers to carve out their own nation.
“But what they hadn’t really told us was the Muslim side of it,” the 15-year-old said of his Partition studies.
The chapters on Gandhi are a striking example of the gap between how Partition is portrayed on either side of the border. In Pakistan, his contribution to the struggle for independence is hardly mentioned, whereas in India he is hailed as an “one-man army”. History teacher Aashish Dhakaan who works in a high school in India’s Gujarat state, acknowledged that the creation of the Muslim League was popularly upheld as “self reliance and liberty” in Pakistan, and the folly of “gullible Muslims” in India. “In our history we won the war, and in their history textbooks, they won the war,” said Dhakaan. While the government-sanctioned curriculums on both sides of the border appear largely ossified to their version of history, one Pakistan-based group has been using games and popular culture to challenge students to think critically about their past.
Qasim Aslam’s “History Project” runs sessions in schools in India and Pakistan, inviting students to compare how Partition accounts are presented in the two countries’ textbooks.
“By the time they are 20, it is solidified and stays with them all their lives,” Aslam said of the one-sided history lessons proffered in schools.
Mumbai-based student Mitra attended one of these sessions in April. “It helped me to take a different viewpoint into account and to form a more balanced notion,” Mitra said.
“If I know only one part, then it’s not the complete truth.” Islamabad-based Pakistan studies professor Tariq Rehman said that correcting bias in the official syllabi “would take a change in foreign policy” between the two countries.
“Authorities (in Pakistan) don’t seem to be interested in making changes and question the antagonism against India,” he added.
But there are small signs of progress. The latest revision of the state history textbook in India includes graphic first-hand accounts of atrocities committed by Hindus, and asks students if the violence could be considered a holocaust. A book of testimonies titled “The Other Side of Silence” by Indian writer and Partition historian Urvashi Butalia is now also part of the high school syllabus in India. Butalia said she is pleased that more people are trying to understand Partition beyond a nationalistic prism. “It would have been impossible 20 years ago,” she said.
In a statement on the occasion of Youm-e-Police Shuda, the PPP Chairman appreciated the Sindh and other governments for observing day to pay homage to our martyrs and pledged that entire nation, Police and other law enforcing are united against terrorism.
He said that PPP is the heir of all our martyrs and stands with their families stressing on Sindh and other governments to take full care of their families.