The Jewish and Christian Bibles in Sindhi, published in 1870

By: Gul Agha

Jewish & Christian Bibles in Sindhi, published in 1870. We have now lost Jewish Sindhi songs to history.. don’t know what shape the remains of the synagogue in Karachi، Sindh and other cities are (possibly unrecognizable, as thousands of other temples in Sindh).

Courtesy: Gul Agha’s facebook wall, July 2012.

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Landed Colonialism: Pakistan Army’s occupation of land in Sindh

In this context, the complex example and the most suitable? subject? of the contemporary studies around federalism is Pakistan. No doubt one of the rare peculiarity of colonisation is land and natural resources along with the other manifestations of human and natural resources as well as territorial / geographical colonialism.
Warring against the citizens

An absolute militarized state and country dominated by ethnic Punjabi Muslims, Pakistan has a history of internal wars that it has been fighting against Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun and Siraiki people since March 27, 1948. These wars have no full-stop even after seventy-two years after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Almost all military operations and interventions carried in Sindh, Pakhtunkhuwa and in Siraiki South Punjab as well as invasion of Balochistan and parts of Kashmir had unavoidable deep connections with the land and land related interests.In fact, Pakistan Army is the largest land mafia in Pakistan, and unethically and due to illegitimate use of power, it possesses and keeps on occupying the prime land in Sindh, Balochistan, Pakhtunkhuwa, Siraiki South Punjab and occupied Kashmir.

Eying the land resources of Sindh

Sindh is natural resources rich land in South Asia having one of the oldest sea-ports in the region. Karachi, the capital city of Sindh, is the only cosmopolitan in Pakistan. The military has a history of occupying millions of acres urban and agriculture land; school and hospital buildings; and having shares, contracts and employments in the oil, gas, and coal resources of the province.

Recently it has started occupying the bulky land in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur cities for the mammoth human settlements there in a bid to ethnically cleanse the Sindhi from the cities and re-settle 20 million ethnic Punjabis there. By doing this, the land locked Pakistani Punjab province wants to ensure resisting possible freedom of Sindh.

The military has recently launched the controversial residential and commercial project Bahriya (Naval) Town in Karachi based on over one hundred thousand acres land in and around coastal Karachi. Another series of projects is also being planned in the Malir district of Karachi that also is based on over one hundred thousand acres land.

If the intended settlement of these projects is estimated, at least ten new seats in Sindh Assembly, National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan would be created by the new non-Sindhi settlers.

No end to movement

When Sindhi nationalists announced a movement against land occupation by the armed forces, the military retaliated. Over one hundred activists of various Sindhi nationalist parties were killed and around 2000 were either detained or enforcedly disappeared during August – December 2014. Recently, a civil society movement Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) announced launching movement against Malir projects; suddenly his car was crashed accidentally in which PFF leader Tahira Ali Shah was killed and Mohammad Ali Shah got severe injuries.

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A missing State

Dangerously corrosive to the rule of law.

Dangerously corrosive to the rule of law.

By 

The dismal image of the country on human rights front merits drastic overhaul by implementing international convention on missing persons

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has once again pleaded the government of Pakistan to ratify “international convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance”, and shun the barbaric practice of enforced disappearances and killings of compatriots.

Recent torrent of abduction and killing of political workers has once again brought Pakistan in the limelight.

HRCP and other civil society organisations have criticised the government and the law enforcement agencies for perpetrating these crimes against citizens.

The convention that was adopted by the  on December 20, 2006 and entered into force on December 23, 2010, explicitly says no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance. It also trashes stereotype excuses by succinctly saying “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.”

The convention also demands the states shall guarantee the relatives or the victims’ counsel have access to the responsible authorities. It also seeks a commitment to disclose the whereabouts of persons deprived of liberty, including, in the event of a transfer to another place.

So far, 94 states have signed the convention and 43 have ratified it. Pitiably, the United States and United Kingdom refused to sign the convention on flimsy grounds. India is the only country in SAARC region that has signed the aforementioned convention but not yet ratified. Pakistan is also among the countries that have not yet signed the convention to eschew a cardinal international commitment. Before that, the General Assembly of the United Nations also adopted declaration on the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance in its resolution 47/133 of December 18, 1992.

South Asian countries have a gruesome track record of trampling movements for political rights, often dubbing them as insurgencies. While some of the movements pronounce armed struggle as a strategy to achieve their goals, the peaceful ones are not spared either.

At times, atrocious means adopted by law enforcement agencies compel peaceful political movements to violent recourse. It happens in countries with fragile democracies, where the state apparatus adopts repressive than saner political options.

Dismemberment of Pakistan in 1973, series of uprisings in Balochistan, unremitting conflict in Kashmir, suppressed Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka are some of the regional examples to mention.

Pakistan is among the countries that have not yet signed the convention to protect its citizens from enforced disappearances. However, the country is signatory to some other instruments that forbid such crimes to be committed by a state against its citizens.

Courts at times accused state actors to be involved in such incidents. But they were responded to with dumping of mutilated bodies.

Pakistan’s own constitution guarantees the right to fair trial. Article 10-A says, “in any criminal charge against him a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process.” Law enforcement agencies, however, violate such clauses of constitution on the pretext of protecting an incognito national interest. During the past 10 years, parts of the country have witnessed incessant disappearances and killings at the hands of both state and non-state actors.

A delegation of the United Nations working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances visited Pakistan in September 2012. During the visit, the working group received information on cases of enforced disappearances and studied the measures adopted by the state to prevent enforced disappearances. The figures communicated to the group ranged from less than a hundred to thousands.

The report of the group highlighted the plight of tormented families who were threatened; that if they did file a case, their loved ones will be harmed, or another member of their family would be abducted. Similarly, witnesses and lawyers supporting the victims were threatened with dire consequences.

While enforced disappearances and custodial killings are rampant, the state response in Pakistan has been inadequate. Only cosmetic measures have been taken to mollify the enraged human rights bodies.

In April 2008, former law minister, Farooq Naik, stated that the government was collecting details of disappeared persons and promised that all would be released. In April 2010, the Interior Ministry set up a committee to investigate the fate of the disappeared persons. In March 2011, the Supreme Court decided to institute a specific body to deal with cases of enforced disappearances.

In May 2012, the statute of the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) was also adopted by the Parliament. Notifications of these committees are gathering dust in official shelves and no findings have been made public.

Unabated abductions and killings of political workers spread to Sindh too. Courts were made repeated requests to produce the missing persons. They at times accused state actors to be involved in such incidents. But they were responded to with dumping of mutilated bodies.

The law enforcement agencies always denied these charges. The overall futility of the law and justice structure is evident from the fact that in spite of thousands of disappearances and genocidal killings on ethnic and sectarian grounds, hardly any felons has been convicted.

The UN working group reported with alarm that impunity is dangerously corrosive to the rule of law in Pakistan. The report quoting some officials mentioned that criminals, terrorists or militants from armed groups enjoyed a great impunity because, even when investigations were initiated against them, they managed to get out of them, by using threats against the police, the judges or witnesses. There were hints that this might explain why some law enforcement or intelligence agents might have resorted to illegal practices such as enforced disappearances.

Apathy and indifference of successive governments is starkly evident. Responding a question on recent incidents of extrajudicial killings in Sindh, a federal minister callously remarked that it is a provincial matter whereas the chief minister of Sindh stood aloof by saying that nationalists are politicising dead bodies. This cavalier attitude of the government would only rub salt on the wounds of victims.

Article 13(1) of the “UN declaration on the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance” provides that whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that an enforced disappearance has been committed, the State shall promptly refer the matter to a competent and independent State authority for investigation, even if there has been no formal complaint. No measure shall be taken to curtail or impede the investigation. Hence the State cannot be absolved of its responsibility to protect lives of citizens even if its law enforcement arms pretend their innocence.

The country ranked fourth on the human rights risk index ought to adopt serious strategies to repair its image. Immune to all kinds of ignominies, the government rather embarked on a retrogressive “Protection of Pakistan Act” that actually extends a license for extrajudicial killings and illegal detentions. Such scruffy laws are likely to be used as brinkmanship tool against movements for political rights particularly in Sindh and Balochistan, where cold blooded murders are frequently committed. These laws are certainly not intended to curb terrorism in the country where banned faith-based elements with dubious trajectory freely operate, sometimes under official patronage.

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Imagining Lyari Through Akhtar Soomro

By Maniza Naqvi

“I’ve lived all my life in my old neighborhood of Lyari. My father was a mason and he died of lung-cancer when I was six years old. I still feel his presence and remember his gestures and his appearance with his beard and a black and white checkered scarf on his head— you know like a Palestinian- scarf on his head.” Akhtar Soomro narrates himself.

And through his photo journalism Akhtar Soomro challenges us to enter on journeys that make us confront the geography and calculus of our own reality and recognize and imagine other stories. Stories of people, who have been systematically humiliated and diminished: people, who have been marginalized; and criminalized by those who have amassed power by grabbing every resource and facility and service in Pakistan. These photographs, as stark evidence, let us enter their world of survival, of how despite it all, people cope, triumph, flourish, create and celebrate, kick and punch back. Occasionally he gives us glimpses into the pathology of those grabbers of power: glimpses of the glint in their eyes, of the cynical grin on their faces and of the instruments and weapons that they wield to maintain their supremacy. …

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Read » Robin Hood of Sindh – Kadu Makrani of Lyari