Tuesday, May 7, 2019

#Pakistan - PERSPECTIVES - The political scope of Blasphemys

If you think the concept of ‘blasphemy’ is limited to showing contempt for religious practices, ideas, personalities or deities you are wrong – although most of the cases reported in newspapers concern that. Blasphemy covers a wide variety of topics and areas, beyond matters of faith, and includes politics and social values, historical events and powerful organisations.

 Let me elaborate. In Pakistan, it is almost blasphemous to voice an opinion different from the point of view of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Try to do that some day; tell a group that Iqbal’s ideas lacked originality. Let this be a test case. Or that Iqbal borrowed too much, to the point of plagiarism, from the German philosophers of the19th century; or that his ideas lagged way behind his contemporaries in the West where he was educated; or that since Pakistan faced a shortage of genuine leaders, the people of the new republic were compelled to canonise Iqbal as a saint, irrespective of whether or not he met the standards. Even before you have uttered half of it, your friends and family members would disown you either out of respect for the philosopher or for fear of other people’s response.

Those who stay to argue would put you down by hurling invectives, calling names and reminding you to stay in your limits. Ask them if they have read Iqbal’s famous lectures compiled as The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, the answer will almost always be no. Don’t worry about the irony; it is part and parcel of the mindset of the champions of the blasphemy law.

For me, bringing up Iqbal’s shortcomings in philosophy does not mean that he did not excel in Urdu poetry. Sure, he did. His command of the language is impressive and many of his poems inspire millions of Pakistanis.
Moving along, it is also blasphemous to criticise anything about Muhammad Ali Jinnah biography, be it a personal, social, professional or political aspect of his life. If you have read about him you would realise that he did not lead an exemplary life, and some of the choices he made could be called into question. For example, have you ever wondered about his relationship with his wife, Rattanbai Jinnah? Why did she leave him? Could you question his role as a father? His daughter, Dina Wadia, never visited Pakistan during his lifetime.
It is blasphemous to criticise any portion of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s biography, be it the personal, social, professional or political aspect of his life
These questions do not make him less of a leader. They make him a normal human being who is not perfect. He created a country for the Muslim minority of the subcontinent through his dedication, hard work and pure brilliance. It also provides people like us an inspiration. We too can make a mark in history if we focus, work hard and dedicate our lives to a mission. Instead, we are forced to believe that normalcy, personal flaws and shortcomings take away from one’s accomplishments. Bringing up the political role of non-political organisations is also considered blasphemous. You have to rely upon euphemisms (like ‘establishment’ and ‘powerful forces’) to express yourself, afraid that your words will not be published. Or that if you say something more than what is allowed you will be listed among the most unwanted citizens of the country. Even worse, your words may be published but edited to an extent that they lose their meaning, even be twisted to mean just the opposite.
The list goes on and on. It is blasphemous to educate the masses that corruption may not have played the biggest role in bringing down our economy, and that instead it is meddling in the democratic process. It is also blasphemous to talk in favour of certain politicians. It is blasphemous to ask about supporters of non-state actors, to question why Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar are protected in Pakistan while being recognised as terrorists by the international community. Raising a voice for Chinese Muslims is also becoming blasphemous.
We have to let people think and speak freely, rather than try to brainwash them with a twisted version of history or to threaten them against expressing their views. Diversity of ideas makes a nation great. True, in the cacophony of multiple voices, it may look otherwise, but the plurality of voices can promote the virtues of tolerance and humility. Singularity of ideas, on the other hand, can make us intellectually poor, financially dependent on foreign forces to solve our problems and prone to being taken by those who steal people’s mandate to come into power.

The China-Pakistan ‘nexus’ to exploit tons of gold from the mines of Balochistan

Two mines in Balochistan are connected with small, unlisted airstrips, indicating that flights to the locations cannot be monitored.

China has emerged as a major player in mining in the restive Balochistan province of Pakistan and is suspected to be helping Islamabad surreptitiously export tons of gold from there.
Despite being rich in minerals, Balochistan, the largest Pakistani province by area and the site of an active movement for independence, remains poor.
As home to the Gwadar port, it is central to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of the flagship projects of Beijing’s showpiece Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), but reportedly has little to gain from the multi-billion-dollar initiative.
All Pakistani governments are believed to have consistently exploited the natural resources of Balochistan to benefit Punjab province alone.
During the discussions for the sales of the M-9 and M-11 missiles to Pakistan, China asked for a 20-year lease to the mineral-rich areas of Chagai in Balochistan.
The deal was concluded, and around 84 missiles delivered to Pakistan in 1993.
Nuclear physicist Samar Mubarakmand played a key role in shepherding both deals. He was later appointed director of the National Development Complex, involved in Pakistan’s nuclear development, at Fatehjang, where he started the infamous Shaheen programme.
The Tethyan Copper Company, with engineers of the state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), had started surveying the mining areas much before the missile deal was concluded.
These engineers found traces of copper and gold at two places in Balochistan province, at Sandak and Reko Diq.
ThePrint analyses the progress of these areas through satellite imagery to understand China’s gold mining operations in Pakistan.

Reko Diq

In 1995, the first trial excavations for four months yielded almost 200 kg of gold and 1,700 tonnes of copper, with estimates pegging the area’s total ore reserves at more than 5.9 billion tonnes.
Pakistan, having realised that the deal was a great loss to the government, withheld a lease to Tethyan Copper Company, a joint venture of two firms based in Chile and Canada, which had to subsequently stop all mining activities.

Source: Col. Vinayak Bhat (Retd)

The key Pakistani witness was again Samar Mubarakmand, who claimed that the government can now benefit more from extracting copper and gold without seeking assistance from foreign companies.
The Chinese, however, continued surveying and mining the area with the tacit approval of officials in the Pakistani government.
This is also evident from the satellite imagery, which shows the Tethyan Copper Company areas abandoned but the Chinese part of Reko Diq functional and growing after 2014.
It is learned that a fresh lease has been given to a Chinese company under the MCC for 10 years up to 2023. The details of the contract are very sketchy.

Source: Col. Vinayak Bhat (Retd)


The Chinese company under MCC started digging for an open-pit gold mine in 1995 at a place called Sandak about 30 km North of Koh-i-Taftan on the Iran-Pakistan border.
The estimated gold reserves at Sandak are almost to the tune of 6 lakh kg, which is almost 20 times higher than at Reko Diq.

Source: Col. Vinayak Bhat (Retd)

Gold mining requires specially trained, very skilled and trustworthy manpower. The Chinese company employs locals only for driving and external security duties, with the internal mining and processing handled by Chinese staff.
This becomes evident from the special residential complex built for trusted staff, and the dilapidated village accommodation set up for local staff.

Source: Col. Vinayak Bhat (Retd)

The main complex has an open pit where a number of large mechanical excavators are observed working. The excavated earth is piled to the north of the open pit, making it easy to calculate the amount of ore extracted from the mine.
The processing plant has a number of crushers, a milling plant, leaching tanks, CIP (carbon in pulp) absorption etc, which are involved in the cynidation process. The signatures indicate a possible electrolytic desorption system as well.
There is a large tailings dam at the southwest corner of the complex. The study of reflectance and DN [digital number] values of the ore dump on latest satellite images indicates that it contains more gold than estimated earlier.
Recent images indicate that a new open-pit mine started excavations from March 2017 onwards, north of the old open pit.

Source: Col. Vinayak Bhat (Retd)


The security for the two sites is probably provided by the frontier corps of Pakistan Army and/or the Baloch Rangers.
A number of posts are seen around the two main complexes, covering areas marking the entry and exit. The small posts have wire fencings and larger posts have solid walls as fencing.


Although connected with three railway tracks, the Sandak processing plant uses trucks for transportation to the Gwadar or Karachi port.
Both Sandak and Reko Diq are connected with small airstrips, possibly for the export of processed ore. These airstrips are unlisted, indicating that flights to the locations cannot be monitored.

Source: Col. Vinayak Bhat (Retd)

This strongly suggests that speculation about the export of gold without the knowledge of the State Bank of Pakistan may actually be true.

Pashteen: PTM Hurt Pakistan Military's Terror-Sponsoring Industry

In response to last week's accusation by the military that Pakistan's Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has been receiving funds from Afghanistan's and India's intelligence agencies, its leader, Manzoor Pashteen, blamed the country's most powerful institution of turning the war on terror into a lucrative business in their region.
Pashteen alleged to VOA in a telephone interview from Islamabad that Pakistan's military has been trying to sow confusion among people about PTM.
"These are baseless accusations that we receive funding from foreign intelligence agencies. They cannot produce a single evidence," Pashteen said. "There is an English saying that if you cannot convince them, confuse them. That's exactly what the military has been doing against us.
"They [military] train militants here and then the militants carry out attacks in my country and other countries of the world. With PTM's emergence as a movement, the military can no longer operate with impunity to do that and their so-called business has been faced with difficulties," he added.
Military's warning
Last Monday, Major General Asif Ghafoor, director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and the spokesperson for the military, accused the PTM of receiving funds from Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and advancing their agendas inside Pakistan.
"On the PTM website, they have got a number that states the amount of funds they have collected from Pashtuns around the world. But tell us how much money did you get from the NDS [Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security] to run your campaign? How much money did RAW [India's Research and Analysis Wing] give you for the first dharna [sit-in protest] in Islamabad?" Ghafoor asked."We want to do everything for the people [of tribal areas], but those who are playing in the hands of people, their time is up. Their time is up," Ghafoor added, implying that PTM members are serving as foreign agents.
But Pashteen charges that it's the military that gets funding from foreign countries, not his movement.
"They [military] want to end PTM so that they could continue nurturing militancy and then attack them here and there and receive funding for it from the international community," Pashteen said.
"It was not us. It was them who have received about $33 billion from foreigners," he added.
Pakistan has received more than $ 33 billion in U.S assistance since 2002 including more than $14 billion in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) which is a U.S. Defense Department program for reimbursing allies that incur costs while supporting the U.S-led counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations in the region.
'Anti-state forces'
Ghafoor urged Pakistan's Pasthun population not to be provoked by what he called "anti-state forces," which he used to describe Pashteen and his movement.
"Pakistan armed forces will not rest until your issues are resolved. We hope that you will not pay attention to their [PTM] rhetoric and instead stop these anti-state forces," Ghafoor said.But Pashteen maintains that he respects the country's constitution and that the military has a tendency to label anyone who fights for constitutional rights as "anti-state forces.""Whomever criticizes them [military] is anti-state. Those who demand respect to constitution are labeled as anti-state. Those who demand a republic are called traitors and anti-state," Pashteen said."You tell me, isn't it constitutional to demand due process for missing persons? We simply say that if someone committed a crime, punish him, and if someone is innocent, release him. How is that unconstitutional?" he asked.
Pashtuns, who are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan but a minority in Pakistan, have felt neglected and targeted in Pakistan for some time. That long-simmering anger boiled over in January 2018 with the death of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old shopkeeper-turned-model, at police hands in Karachi.


Bride market trafficks #Pakistani #Christian women to #China


Hundreds young women from Pakistan's small Christian minority have been trafficked to China as brides in recent months as their impoverished community is targeted in an aggressive new marriage market, activists and officials say.
Brokers offer desperately poor parents thousands of dollars to give girls in marriage to Chinese men, even cruising outside churches for potential brides. They are helped by Christian pastors paid to preach to their congregations with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.
Once in China, the girls — most often married against their will — can find themselves isolated in rural regions, vulnerable to abuse, unable to communicate and reliant on a translation app even for a glass of water. Touted as wealthy Christian converts, the grooms often turn out to be neither, according to accounts from brides, their parents, an activist, pastors and government officials, speaking to The Associated Press.
"This is human smuggling," said Aslam Augustine, the human rights and minorities minister in Pakistan's Punjab province, in an interview with the AP. "Greed is really responsible for these marriages ... I have met with some of these girls and they are very poor."
The Associated Press interviewed more than a dozen Christian Pakistani brides and would-be brides who fled before exchanging vows. All had similar accounts of a process involving brokers and members of the clergy.
"It is all fraud and cheating. All the promises they make are fake," said Muqadas Ashraf, who was 16 when her parents married her off to a Chinese man last year. Less than five months later, she returned to Pakistan, pregnant and seeking a divorce.
In China, demand for foreign brides has mounted, a legacy of the one-child policy that skewed the country's gender balance toward males. Brides initially came largely from Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. Now men are looking further afield, said Mimi Vu, director of advocacy at Pacific Links, which helps trafficked Vietnamese women.
"It's purely supply and demand," she said. "It used to be, 'Is she light-skinned?' Now it's like, 'Is she female?'"
Pakistan seems to have come onto marriage brokers' radar late last year.
Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist, said he first began to see significant numbers of marriages to Chinese men in October. Since then, an estimated 750 to 1,000 girls have been married off, he said.
Pakistan's small Christian community is particularly vulnerable. It is among the country's poorest and has little political or social supporting, numbering some 2.5 million in Pakistan's overwhelmingly Muslim population of 200 million.
Among all faiths in Pakistan, parents often decide a daughter's marriage partner. The deeply patriarchal society often sees girls as a burden because the bride's family must pay a dowry and the cost of the wedding.
By contrast, potential Chinese grooms offer parents money and pay all wedding expenses.
Some of the grooms are from among the tens of thousands of Chinese in Pakistan working on infrastructure projects under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. Other grooms search directly from China through networks. They present themselves as Christian converts, but pastors complicit in the deals don't ask for any documentation.
They pay on average $3,500 to $5,000, including payments to parents, pastors and a broker, said Iqbal.
Muqadas' mother Nasreen said she was promised about $5,000, including wedding costs. "But I have not seen anything yet," she said.
"I really believed I was giving her a chance at a better life and also a better life for us," Nasreen said. When her daughter became increasingly miserable in China, Nasreen contacted the husband and demanded her daughter be sent home.
Dozens of Pakistani priests are paid by brokers to find brides for Chinese men, said Augustine, the provincial minorities minister, who is Christian. Many are from the small evangelical churches that have proliferated in Pakistan.
In Gujranwala, a city north of Lahore, more than 100 local Christian women and girls have been married off to Chinese in recent months, according to Iqbal.
The city has several mainly Christian neighborhoods, largely dirt poor with open sewers running along narrow slum streets.
Pastor Munch Morris, who serves at a local evangelical church, opposes such marriages. But he said he knows a group of pastors in his neighborhood who work with a private Chinese marriage broker. Among them, he said, is a fellow pastor at his church who tells his flock, "God is happy because these Chinese boys convert to Christianity. They are helping the poor Christian girls."
Rizwan Rashid, a parishioner at the city's Roman Catholic St. John's Church, said that two weeks earlier, a car pulled up to him outside the church gates. Two Pakistani men and a Chinese woman inside asked him if he knew of any girls who want to marry a Chinese man.
"They told me her life would be great," he said. They were willing to pay him to help, but he said he refused because the church's priest often warns his flock against such marriages.
Human Rights Watch called on China and Pakistan to take action to end bride trafficking, warning in an April 26 statement of "increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China."
On Monday, Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency arrested eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis in raids in Punjab in connection with trafficking, Geo TV reported. It said the raids followed an undercover operation that included attending an arranged marriage.
The Chinese embassy said last month that China is cooperating with Pakistan to crack down on unlawful matchmaking centers, saying "both Chinese and Pakistani youths are victims of these illegal agents."

Pakistani Christian girls targeted by Chinese as brides

Muqadas Ashraf was just 16 when her parents married her off to a Chinese man who had come to Pakistan looking for a bride. Less than five months later, Muqadas is back in her home country, pregnant and seeking a divorce from a husband she says was abusive.She is one of hundreds of poor Christian girls who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year, activists say. Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.