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Thursday, 13 August 2009

Remembering Nazia Hassan

Thursday marks the death anniversary of Pakistani musician Nazia Hassan, a pop icon who endeared herself to millions across the Indian subcontinent.

Nazia Hassan was one the most popular and influential female singers in South Asia during the 1980’s, and is regarded as a pioneer of Western-style pop music in the region.

Nazia burst on to the scene when she provided vocals for the song ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’ in the Bollywood film Qurbani in 1980, making her hugely popular across India.

She then collaborated with UK-based Indian music producer Biddu, who was then relatively unknown, to produce the album Disco Deewaney in 1981. The album was a huge success, breaking sales records in Pakistan and receiving considerable international acclaim.

She subsequently worked with her brother, Zohaib Hassan, to release four more albums: Star/Boom Boom (1982), Young Tarang (1984), Hotline (1987) and Camera Camera (1992).

The brother-sister duo also made numerous appearances on Pakistan Television (PTV) throughout the 1980s, and jointly hosted the show Music’89.

She was one the first South Asian performers to perform disco-inspired dance music, helping to shake up the then-moribund popular music scene. The new music and attitude that the London-educated singer is credited with paving the path for popular 1990s acts such as the Vital Signs and the Jupiters.

Following the release of her last album Nazia shifted her focus to philanthropic work abroad, and also worked for the United Nations.

The shining light that was Nazia Hassan died in August 13, 2000 in London after a prolonged battle with lung cancer at the young age of 35.

India hit for rising religious violence

An independent U.S. agency on Wednesday criticized the Indian government's "inadequate" response to growing religious hatred, saying attacks and violent riots are on the rise.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a harsh assessment of India's ability and interest in protecting Christian and Muslim minorities from organized attacks.

Plenty of laws are in place, the 14-page report noted, but police and government officials often do little to enforce them.

"Although the infrastructure for investigating and prosecuting cases of religiously motivated violence or harassment exists in India, the capacity of the legal system is severely limited and is utilized inconsistently," the USCIRF found.

"These deficiencies have resulted in a culture of impunity that gives members of vulnerable minority communities few assurances of their safety, particularly in areas with a history of communal violence."

The commission said in a statement that it was placing India on its "watch list" for the governments "largely inadequate response in protecting its religious minorities."

The spokesman at the Indian Embassy in Washington said officials are studying the report.

India - a multiethnic, multireligious, multilingual democracy of more than a billion people - is one of the United States' closest allies in Asia.

The country has an independent judiciary, as well as a scrappy and influential press corps that frequently takes on the government, USCIRF officials found. Nongovernmental organizations are free to criticize local and national administrations, and mobilize civil society.

However, the group says, a half-dozen Indian states have passed ordinances that contradict or overturn the national regulations, creating an atmosphere of impunity for the killing and harassment of religious minorities.

USCIRF investigators singled out a violent campaign against Christians in the state of Orissa in eastern India. At least 40 people were killed over a period of weeks, and church properties and thousands of home were attacked. The group estimates that 60,000 people, mostly Christian, fled the violence and sought refuge in the nearby jungle.

"It is extremely disappointing that India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege," commission Chairman Leonard Leo said in the statement.

He said the India chapter of the commission's annual report is being released this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

Kashmir violence raises new security worries for India

A spurt in violence in Kashmir shows militants may have abandoned a strategy of backing peaceful street protests to fight Indian rule, raising fears of sucking in Indian and Pakistani troops to their tense border.

Separatist groups hoped that months of street protests last year could galvanise into a massive anti-India movement, but the demonstrations petered out and New Delhi carried out two rounds of peaceful elections in the state, despite boycott calls.

‘The militant groups do not want the administration to settle down and are using violent tactics now as people in the region are talking peace and even voted in large numbers,’ Naresh Chandra, a former envoy to Washington, said.

‘Pakistan continues to aid militants crossing over from their side and this could raise tension between troops also,’ he said.

A rise in tension could be a blow for the United States, which wants India and Pakistan to resume a peace process, paused after November's Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, so that Islamabad can focus its security efforts on its Afghan border.

Since July, 30 people have been killed in firefights along a military Line of Control dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, and 14 infiltration attempts have been made, double than last year during the same period, Indian officials say.

Two-decade-old separatist violence in Kashmir has fallen since India and Pakistan, which claim the disputed Himalayan region in full, began a peace process in 2004.

Also, state polls held last year in Kashmir saw a turnout of more than 60 per cent, despite a boycott call by separatists.

People also came out to vote during the April/May general election held this year, prompting some separatist leaders to talk about a shift of strategy from backing peaceful protests to adopting violent tactics.

‘They (Pakistan-based groups) find things have gone far too peaceful...They don't wish for this prolonged peace and stability,’ Deepak Kapoor, India'a army chief, told reporters this week in New Delhi.

‘Hence you see heightened activity, heightened attempts to try to get as many people in before the winters come, snow falls and passes close,’ Kapoor said.

Last week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reiterated Pakistan's stance that resolving issues such as Kashmir was important for regional stability, which Indian experts said was a ploy to keep the Kashmir issue alive.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

‘Pakistan is trying to convince the western world that Kashmir is raging and these militants are all freedom fighters fighting to free Kashmir from Indian rule,’ Amulya Ganguli, a defence expert, said.

‘As Pakistan is coming under huge international pressure to act against militants it is opening all pressure points against India and Kashmir is a forefront of that strategy,’ Brahma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research said.

Bangladesh to Balochistan

When Pakistan came into being in August 1947, from among five federating provinces, East Pakistan was the most under developed province followed by Balochistan, Sindh and Frontier provinces. Punjab was relatively more developed and prosperous because of well developed communication infrastructure, better literacy and technical skills, fertile land, plentiful water for irrigation and sophisticated canal irrigation system built by the British and hard working lower class. Elite civil service, police and armed forces had majority from Punjab and Urdu speaking Mohajirs. Inequity in development status of smaller provinces vis-Ã -vis Punjab became the chief reason for giving rise to grouses among the former.
East Pakistan was subverted by Indian intelligence agencies from 1948 onwards and Mujibur Rahman became the vehicle to further their ends. India succeeded in its designs because of mishandling by our rulers and failing to attend to some genuine and mostly perceived grievances of Bengalis against the State. Propaganda warfare and subversion of youth by Hindu teachers and professors in schools, colleges and universities was never countered. They were brainwashed into believing that Punjabi dominated central government had turned East Pakistan into its colony and West Pakistan was prospering at their cost. Awami League rejected maximum provincial autonomy and sought confederation during Yahya-Mujib parleys in March 1971. Great majority of people of eastern wing had desired removal of their grievances but had never preferred separation and that too under tutelage of India. Terrorized into submission, they reluctantly flowed with the tide of Awami League stimulated independence movement.
By the time India launched its military instrument on 21 November 1971, Bengali nationalism as well as abhorrence for West Pakistan had peaked. More than half the battle had already been won on psychological operations plane. Small force of West Pakistani 45000 (both army and paramilitary) together with Razakars trying to defend the motherland was hugely outnumbered, isolated, fatigued and demoralized and their weapons and equipment badly worn out. Biharis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis were later on declared as collaborators and ruthlessly massacred and persecuted. Euphoria of Bangladeshis soon transformed into despair since independence did not bring any change in their fortunes. In fact, for first 20 years of their independence their plight became pathetic. Rapid decline in living conditions made them realize that they were tricked and led up the garden path. It sparked unrest and led to massacre of Mujib and his 23 family members in 1974. India has become highly meddlesome in internal affairs of Bangladesh. To ensure its monopoly, India impedes its progress, foments trouble and treats it as its 29th state. There is large segment in Bangladesh that still ruefully recalls old days of united Pakistan with nostalgia and detests India for its unwanted interference and bossy attitude.
After achieving a huge success in 1971, RAW was assigned to carryout subversion in Sindh. Existing grievances between old and new Sindhis were exploited and deep cleavages drawn between two communities giving rise to ethnic based nationalism and regional politics. Tussle between Punjabi and Pathan settlers in Karachi and Urdu speaking Mohajirs was accentuated to create bad blood between various communities. By early 1990, Sindh became a wounded province and ideas of Sindudesh and Urdudesh were planted among nationalists. Military operation against MRD movement in interior Sindh in 1983 duly backed by India and against MQM in 1992 and again in 1995-96 stemmed nationalist fervor to some extent. In the aftermath of 9/11, interests of USA and India colluded in Balochistan. Emphasis therefore shifted from Sindh towards Balochistan. Since early 2002, RAW, CIA, Mossad, MI-6, RAAM are collectively assisting separatist movement in Balochistan. Huge quantity of war munitions and funds are being regularly pumped in.
Christen Fair, a reputed US journalist has exposed Indian covert operations in Pakistan. For Balochistan, Indian consulates in Kandahar and Zahedan are playing a key role. Situation in Balochistan was deliberately worsened by getting three Baloch nationalist leaders killed by Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) in last April since they were on verge of spilling the beans about Brahamdagh led BLA sponsored by foreign agencies. Captured suicide bombers from Dera Bugti made damning revelations of involvement of runaway Brahamdagh Bugti, RAW and RAAM in training terrorists in camps in Afghanistan and launching them in Balochistan against assigned targets. Riasat 25 and 33 detachments were specifically created for fomenting unrest in Pakistan. Commander Raziq Achakzai turned Spin Boldak into forward launching pad for unleashing terrorists and supplying arms and ammunition in Balochistan. Afghan officials facilitate border crossing of RAW agents. Shahgarh-Kishingrah route in Indian Rajasthan is also frequented for same purpose. RAW chief VM Varma and RAAM chief Amanullah Saleh hold frequent meetings in New Delhi and Kabul to coordinate clandestine operations in Pakistan. CIA and Mossad also take part in some of Pakistan-specific meetings. Baloch miscreants are richly paid by foreign agencies and lifestyle of heretofore unknown BLA members belonging to Marri tribe has become opulent. Other shady organizations having no base are on papers only. These include Baloch Republican Army (BRA) representing Bugtis, Lashkar-i-Balochistan, an armed group of Mengals and Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) representing many Baloch tribes. Purpose is to make the world believe that movement is wide based.
A systematic campaign is in progress under patronage of RAW to brainwash Baloch youth, inculcate in them Baloch nationalism and turn them against concept of Pakistan. 20 teachers were sent in 2008 from Balochistan to Afghanistan for receiving training to subvert school/college syllabus in Balochistan as had been done in East Pakistan through Hindu teachers and professors. Pakistan History, social and Islamic studies in particular is being distorted. In many schools in Baloch dominated districts like Mastung, Kalat, Naushki, Sui, Dera Bugti and Kahan, students no more sing national anthem or display Pakistan flag or eulogize services of Quaid-e-Azam. Hatred against Punjabis, army and federal government is inculcated on grounds that they are plundering the resources of Balochistan and thriving on Baloch natural resources.
Pattern of propaganda themes is on lines played by Awami League in East Pakistan. Nawab Bugti is lionized as a Baloch hero and BLA projected as a vehicle struggling for emancipation and independence of Balochistan from the yoke of parasitic Punjabis who have colonised their province. BRA is eulogized for confronting the army. It has claimed responsibility for all acts of terror including target killings of Punjabi settlers. It is holding 21 police officials and 14 laborers as hostages since 30 July and has already killed 12 policemen and threatened to kill remaining abducted persons if arrested Baloch dissidents involved in anti-state activities are not immediately released. Pillions riding masked gunmen belonging to BLA are carrying out target killings of Punjabi settlers and Persian speaking Hazaras. Punjabi settlers have migrated from rural districts and are now moving out from Quetta as well.
PM Gilani showed photos of Brahamdagh meeting Indian officials in Afghanistan and India and RAW officials meeting anti-Pak elements to Manmohan at Sharm-al Sheikh. He was provided clinching evidence of Indian involvement in terrorist attacks on Sri Lanka cricket team on 3 March and on Manawan police academy on 30 March in Lahore rendering Manmohan speechless. Holbrooke and Gen Stanley McChrystal were also apprised of Indian activities. Pakistan should now do away with its harmful policy of appeasement and press India, Afghanistan and USA to hand over Brahamdagh, wind up his clandestine HQ in Kandahar, close Pakistan specific Indian consulates and camps training terrorists in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, socio-politico-economic steps should be undertaken in real earnest to remove genuine grievances of people of Balochistan. Media should play its role to wash away effects of negative propaganda bred into the minds of youth and inculcate in them nationalism and patriotism. A fervent celebration of 14 August Independence Day in Quetta on 10 August was a healthy activity to put to shame few anti-state elements aspiring to declare independence of Balochistan.