Pakistan’s problem—Dual citizenship

Overly simplistic to blame all problems on dual citizenship. Some other countries that do not formally allow dual citizenship have similar issues although may be more acute in Pakistan:

So much has been written about why Pakistan is fast becoming a basket case but none of what I have read on Pakistan from the world’s greatest analysts have come to the root problem—It is because Pakistan allows dual citizenships. None of the elites have a stake in Pakistan—not the generals; not the politicians nor the big business or feudal families.

Everyone one who can get a Western passport, along with their Pakistani ones has their kids studying and then working abroad and when these elitists retire, they have sent enough money abroad to live a life of luxury but their dollars came from deals they did living in Pakistan.

Tarek Fatah often talks about the mini-Pakistan of ISI and armed officers in Canada where they have been able to buy the best of properties and even have their own fancy club where they can act just like they did the Pakistan. No wonder even the poor try to escape as refugees along with Syrians, Afghans and other failed state migrants to Europe.

India does not allow dual citizenship and as a developing country I think it was the right decision to take. Thus, even our blatantly rich and corrupt politicians who manage to get millions of dollars abroad, round trip it back to India to invest.

While in Pakistan the military who own a whole industrial empire would rather invest their ill- gotten gains in Papa Johns Pizza and malls and real estate in the US. It almost seems that they have no faith in their country or no real stake. Such a mindset robs the country of not only the foreign aid that comes to it but also is not concerned about the ordinary citizens of the country. It almost feels like the elite use the country as a steeping stone to settle abroad.

Indian generals never go abroad to retire. Most Pakistani generals have one foot in Pakistan and another via their dollar wealth, abroad with their children as well as their extended families.

I feel if you do not have a solid stake in your country than all you are working for is robbing it as Pakistani elite have been doing for the last 70 years. I am convinced this is because of the dual nationality the country allows.

How can one possibly owe allegiance to two countries and when it comes to choosing would you live in a failing state where the there are massive power shortages; very high food inflation; water problem; irregular cooking gas; a huge shortage of medicines, vaccines and medical care; and growing poverty, or would you ditch and run to a Western country, in which you have invested and which has the rule of law and much better standard of living?

If Pakistan was to ban dual citizenship as it should than the well-educated army brats and generals and politicians would have to make their country livable and work harder at doing that. Even when they scam the system– as corruption and greed go together– at least they will have to invest it in businesses and factories in Pakistan. It will compel them to bring about policies that make Pakistan a viable place for industry and will force them to have more of a stake in making their nation better. This can only happen if Pakistan bans dual citizenship and I am convinced that if the nation does this it can recover from the malaise it is in.

Source: Pakistan’s problem—Dual citizenship

HASSAN: Pakistan’s particular second wave challenge

Given Pakistan one of our top five immigration source countries,  of interest, with similarities with some of the fringes in Western countries:

Pakistan’s management of the pandemic was initially lauded even by the World Health Organization. Not so, the second wave.

The latest outbreaks have wrought havoc across the world, and Pakistan is no exception. COVID-19 appears to be spreading rapidly in many parts of the country. The rest of the world is beginning to see the hope of ending the pandemic in the development of various vaccines.

But Pakistan poses a special challenge toward fighting the pandemic within its borders. According to Younis Dar, Pakistan’s situation is “far more dangerous” as a significant number of Pakistanis refuse to embrace the idea of inoculation because of rampant suspicion against the vaccines.

Source: HASSAN: Pakistan’s particular second wave challenge

Poor and Desperate, Pakistani Hindus Accept Islam to Get By

Of note:

The Hindus performed the prayer rituals awkwardly in supplication to their new, single god, as they prepared to leave their many deities behind them. Their lips stumbled over Arabic phrases that, once recited, would seal their conversion to Islam. The last words uttered, the men and boys were then circumcised.

Dozens of Hindu families converted in June in the Badin district of Sindh Province in southern Pakistan. Video clips of the ceremony went viral across the country, delighting hard-line Muslims and weighing on Pakistan’s dwindling Hindu minority.

The mass ceremony was the latest in what is a growing number of such conversions to Pakistan’s majority Muslim faith in recent years — although precise data is scarce. Some of these conversions are voluntary, some not.

News outlets in India, Pakistan’s majority-Hindu neighbor and archrival, were quick to denounce the conversions as forced. But what is happening is more subtle. Desperation, religious and political leaders on both sides of the debate say, has often been the driving force behind their change of religion.

Treated as second-class citizens, the Hindus of Pakistan are often systemically discriminated against in every walk of life — housing, jobs, access to government welfare. While minorities have long been drawn to convert in order to join the majority and escape discrimination and sectarian violence, Hindu community leaders say that the recent uptick in conversions has also been motivated by newfound economic pressures.

“What we are seeking is social status, nothing else,” said Muhammad Aslam Sheikh, whose name was Sawan Bheel until June, when he converted in Badin with his family. The ceremony in Badin was notable for its size, involving just over 100 people.

“These conversions,” he added, “are becoming very common in poor Hindu communities.”

Proselytizing Muslim clerics and charity groups add to the faith’s allure, offering incentives of jobs or land to impoverished minority members only if they convert.

With Pakistan’s economy on the brink of collapse in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the pressures on the country’s minorities, often its poorest people, have increased. The economy will contract by 1.3 percent in the 2020 fiscal year because of the pandemic, the World Bank predicts. And up to 18 million of Pakistan’s 74 million jobs may be lost.

Mr. Sheikh and his family hope to find financial support from wealthy Muslims or from Islamic charities that have cropped up in recent years, which focus on drawing more people to Islam.

Pakistan: Ancient statue of Buddha destroyed as un-Islamic

Sigh:

Last Friday, an ancient statue of Buddha was vandalised in Takht Bahi, Mardan district (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

The statue was destroyed as “un-Islamic” by the workers who found it (pictured) whilst digging to lay the foundations of a house.

The ancient artefact belongs to the historic Gandhara civilisation which encompassed the region of modern-day north-western Pakistan, more or less Peshawar valley and the lower valleys of the Kabul and Swat rivers.

Gandhara is the old name for the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is highly revered by Buddhists and is deemed an important regional site of Buddhist civilisation.

On Saturday, videos of the destruction went viral on social media. They show a man breaking the statue with a big hammer, with other men expressing their approval and some taping the whole thing.

Pakistani media have reported that four people involved in the incident were arrested.

In 2017, two rare and ancient Buddha statues were found in Bhamala, an archaeological site in Hariput district. The largest statue ever found on the site depicts Buddha’s death whilst the second statue was a Buddha with a double halo.

According to Abdus Samad Khan, head of the province’s archaeology department, the vandalised Buddha statue was 1,700 years old; the broken pieces were recovered to assess their archaeological value.

Following the incident, various news channels and social media discussed the protection of others’ beliefs in the country.

Whilst the Pakistani constitution respects all religions and all faiths are sacred for their followers, many activists and leaders have come out against the destruction of the statue of Buddha. For Samad Khan, it was a “crime” and showed “disrespect for religion”.

Later, police arrested a local contractor and five other people suspected of breaking antiquity regulations.

Two rare and ancient Buddha statues were unearthed in Hariput district in 2017, noted Mansha Noor, executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan in Karachi,

“Breaking this ancient statue of lord Buddha shows ignorance of history and a lack of education,” Mansha said. “Our country is filled with minerals and hidden history. We need to educate our nation about other owners of this land.”

In ancient times, Gandhara was a trading and cultural crossroads linking India, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Source: PAKISTAN Ancient statue of Buddha destroyed as un-Islamic

Islamic missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat may be biggest carrier of Covid-19 in South Asia

Like many evangelical and proselytizing groups:

In a strange pattern, members of Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic proselytizing group, have been found unrestrainedly preaching in large religious gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic restrictions in several countries in Asia, leading to hundreds of infections.

Every year in February and March, over a million Islamic preachers from around the world visit South Asian and South East Asian countries for a celebration of Islam and proselytization programmes. After the outbreak of novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan city of Hubei province of China in December, many countries imposed travel restrictions. However, Tablighi Jamaat went ahead with its pre-planned celebrations, sources in Islamabad said.

On Monday, Pakistani media reported that 36 cases of community transmission among the members of the Tableeghi Jamaat in Hyderabad, Sindh were detected. At least two deaths from the coronavirus were directly linked to Tablighi Jamaat”s gathering in Raiwind.

The cases were reported from Noor Mosque, where around 200 Jamaat members were initially quarantined. Noor Mosque, the second-largest centre of the Jamaat in Sindh, was sealed off after a 19-year-old Chinese-origin member of the preaching group tested positive for Covid-19 on March 27.

They had arrived at Raiwind from Swat and then went to Hyderabad Noor Mosque for Islamic congregation. From there, they went to Sehrish Nagar for preaching of Islamic teachings and are now in Makki Mosque, Pakistan media reported.

Sources in Islamabad said thousands of Muslim preachers from about 80 countries including Palestine and Kyrgyzstan, attended the Tablighi Jamaat meet early March in Sindh. After hundreds tested positive, sources said, the congregation was called off by the government.

In India, in the first week of March, about 250 foreign nationals arrived in Nizamuddin West locality of New Delhi to attend a religious congregation organised by Tablighi Jamaat. The gathering was attended by over 1,700 to 1,800 people from both India and abroad. Many foreign members, traveled to various states for preaching Islam, even as they were on tourist visas.

Nine Indian participants of the congregation have died of the coronavirus infection. Of the nine, six were in Telangana and one each in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and J&K. Among foreign nationals, one has died and 19 others are infected so far.

The Delhi Police by Tuesday afternoon, was able to track 1,830 of these missionaries — 501 from tamil Nadu, 216 from Assam, 156 from Uttar Pradesh, 107 from Madhya Pradesh, 109 from Mahrashtra, 86 from Bihar and 73 from West Bengal among others.

Malaysian media reported that more than half of the country”s known coronavirus cases were traced to a Tablighi Jamaat gathering outside Kuala Lumpur, in late February and early March. The New York Times reported that the Islamic missionaries who participated in the congregation in Malaysia spread the virus to Brunei and Thailand as well.

Founded by Deobandi cleric Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi in 1927 in Mewat, India, Tablighi Jamaat grew in prominence in Pakistan under General Zia ul Haq”s Islamization of the country. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif”s father was a prominent Tablighi member and financier.

Tablighi Jamaat rejects modernity and preaches a code of conduct as practised during Prophet Mohammad”s time, on the same lines as Wahhabi-Salafist ideology which many Islamic terror groups follow. The largest group of Islamic proselytizers, Tablighi Jamaat is credited for making Islam one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Source: Islamic missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat may be biggest carrier of Covid-19 in South Asia

International Women’s Day: With Shoes And Stones, Islamists Disrupt Pakistan Rally

Sigh….

Demonstrators belonging to Islamist groups attacked an International Women’s Day rally in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Sunday, hurling rocks, chunks of mud and even their shoes. The demonstrators, who were at a rival rally held by hardline Islamist organizations, were particularly enraged by one slogan the women’s day rally adopted: “mera jism, mera marzi” – “my body, my choice.”

Riot police set up large cloth barricades to dive the rival rallies, which flanked either side of a main road. But the police were also there to protect the women’s day protesters, after the hardline men and women threatened violence.

As the protest was winding down, dozens of men tried to push through the barricade, including a man who held a little girl aloft on his shoulders. According to a video uploaded to Twitter by a BBC reporter, police used batons to push them back. Still, for the next few minutes, they hurled projectiles that scattered the women’s day protesters, as journalists huddled behind concrete road dividers.

The hardline groups, their surrogates and conservative talking heads, took to the airwaves preceding the rally to condemn Pakistani feminists, accusing them of encouraging anti-Islamic vulgarity by raising a slogan that hinted that a woman had the right to do as she pleased.

The tensions even boiled over on a live talk show, where a screen writer swore at a prominent Pakistani liberal after she interrupted him by chanting the slogan. “Nobody would even spit on your body,” he shouted in a clip widely shared on social media.

Conservative lawyers petitioned the courts in Pakistan’s three cities to try ban the women’s marches. One prominent Islamist opposition leader, known as Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, threatened protesters on Feb. 29, warning them not to chant “my body, my choice.” “God willing, we will also come out into the streets, and we will destroy you,” he warned. And a senior teacher at Jamiat Hafsa, a hardline women’s seminary in the Pakistani capital, told NPR her students would halt the march by organizing a rival “modesty march.”

“This is a march to stop that march,” said the woman, who uses the name Bint Azwa (the women at the seminary often use first names or fake names to avoid being identified by security institutions that monitor their activities). “We are not going to let those women march the streets of our country, our neighborhood, with those vulgar chants.”

The violence underscored how hardline Islamist groups played upon conservative outrage over the slogan “my body, my choice,” to assert their presence in the Pakistani capital – and demonstrate their muscle.

The opposition leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman has struggled to find a toehold in Pakistan’s freewheeling politics since his party was forced into opposition. The hardline Jamiat Hafsa was violently shut down in 2007, after a standoff that killed more than 100 people. The women returned to the seminary only this February, and have dared security forces to remove them again.

On Sunday, dozens of the seminary women turned up at the counter-rally, clad in long black robes, headscarves and face veils, segregated from dozens of men who stood in a nearby park. They stood in military-style rows, their fearsome appearance only jarred by blue, green and pink bows pinned to their shoulders, to identify which bus they should return on, explained one 25-year-old, who only gave her first name, Rubina.

“We don’t want women to make choices for their bodies. The choice rests with God,” she said. Nodding toward the women’s day march, she described the women there as “naked.” “These people don’t even wear dupatas,” she exclaimed, referring to the shawl that Pakistani women traditionally drape across their chests to signify modesty.

On the other side, at the women’s march, hundreds of men, women and transgender Pakistanis clustered. Some waved the red flag of a leftist party. Others held up signs, including “my body, my choice,” but they denounced so-called “honor” killings, where men murder their female relatives for bringing alleged shame onto the family. Some demanded to know the fate of female political activists who mysteriously disappeared.

“Pakistan is getting more and more divided over time,” said Ambreen Gilani, a 41-year-old development consultant, gesturing to the Islamists across the road. The opposition to the women’s march helped motivate another protester to turn up, Sukaina Kazmi, a chemical engineer. She gestured to her Muslim headscarf, “Our religion does not teach us any of the things they are standing up against, our religion actually does fight for women’s rights,” she said.

As the protesters regrouped and walked away from the dozens of men trying to assault them, one organizer, Anam Rathor, said the violence underscored why they were demonstrating. “This proves our point, and this movement is growing. And now we will have more people. The reason why they are throwing stones is because they are afraid of us and that makes us happy.”

Source: International Women’s Day: With Shoes And Stones, Islamists Disrupt Pakistan Rally

How Caste Underpins the Blasphemy Crisis in Pakistan

Interesting and revealing context for Asia Bibi and anti-Christian sentiment in general:

On June 14, 2009, Asia Bibi, a poor Christian woman, was picking fruit in the field of Itan Wali village in Pakistan, about 30 miles from the city of Lahore. On the landowner’s order, Bibi fetched drinking water for her co-workers, but three Muslim women among them accused her of contaminating the water by touching the bowl. An argument followed.

Later, the Muslim women accused Bibi of making blasphemous statements against the Prophet Muhammad — a charge punishable by death under Pakistani law. Despite little evidence, Bibi spent nine years in prison — eight in solitary confinement on death row — till she was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in late October.

Pakistan’s religious right has violently protested her acquittal and Bibi is being held in an undisclosed location to keep her safe. The initial accusation against her was not about religion but caste. Her handling of a drinking vessel was seen to pollute the water inside because she belonged to an “untouchable” Hindu caste that had converted to Christianity.

When this offense turned into the charge of blasphemy, the shift signaled the simultaneous disavowal and internalization of caste discrimination by Muslims who otherwise attribute the practice to Hindus in India. Caste discrimination in Pakistan often involves its non-Muslim population and its Hindu past, and allows Muslims to minimize their own caste differences by projecting discrimination outward.

When Pakistan was created after the partition of colonial India, upper-caste Hindus and Sikhs fled or were forced to leave for India, leaving their poorer and less mobile lower-caste coreligionists behind.

In the southern province of Sindh, some upper-caste landowners stayed, while low-caste Hindus took the religion, its temples and practices into their hands in a startling departure from Hindu tradition that has no Indian counterpart. In Punjab Province, former “untouchables” accelerated their conversion to Christianity, taking given names common among their Muslim neighbors while replacing the caste surnames with appellations like “Masih,” the Urdu word for Jesus in his role as Messiah.

Discrimination and ethnic cleansing reduced the population of non-Muslims in Pakistan from about 30 percent at its creation in 1947 to less than 5 percent now. Yet the nearly absolute majority of Muslims in the country has not reduced religious conflict, but rather displaced, increased and internalized it among Muslims.

It is now Muslims, especially in Punjab, who maintain a caste hierarchy. And since Islamic beliefs don’t include a caste system, the discrimination cannot be defined in terms of caste and is labeled religious. This shift was illustrated by turning Bibi’s quarrel over sharing water into blasphemy.

Perhaps Asia Bibi mentioned to her three accusers how the Muslim prophet and religion did not permit such discrimination. But in Pakistan, neither the Christians, who are understood to have been low-caste Hindus, nor the Muslims, who have adopted the role of their high-caste coreligionists, can refer to the vanished past that mediates their relations.

The increasing refusal of Muslims to share water or food with Christians suggests an inability to come to terms with a past that defies the religious identifications meant to structure all of Pakistan’s social relations.

The debate about blasphemy is also tied to cultural issues assuming unprecedented importance with the emergence of a technologically mediated global arena after the Cold War. But such protests and violence over depictions of Islam’s prophet began during the middle of the 19th century in colonial India, where they had to do with urban politics and competition in newly capitalist societies.

These controversies are about struggles over representation in a public space. What defines Muslim outrage is never the traumatic encounter of the believers with the images of the prophet or his representation, but merely the rumor of circulation of his images and his representation beyond their control.

When controversies over insults to the Prophet Muhammad first arose in colonial India, the cases arising from them were dealt with under the Indian Penal Code written by the British politician Thomas Babington Macaulay, who criminalized the injury of religious and other sentiments in secular rather than theological terms by treating it the same way as defamation, libel and other such offenses.

In post-colonial India and Pakistan, religious offense among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians continues to deploy the secular language of hurt sentiments rather than the theological category of blasphemy. In Pakistan, Lord Macaulay’s equal-opportunity conception of injury was done away with, and insulting the Prophet Muhammad was made into a specific crime above all others.

In the early years of Pakistan, a group called the Ahmadis, who are accused of not accepting Muhammad as the last prophet, were the first to be charged with blasphemy. But the charge of blasphemy was soon being leveled by even the most acceptable of Muslims against one another, often for petty and personal reasons. Such accusations are ways of legitimizing the individual motives of those who make them, whether these are concerned with quarrels over money, property or marriage.

But the accusations of blasphemy are also related to anxieties about the Muslim prophet’s vulnerability to insult, which have emerged from profound shifts in the life of Muslim societies.

These include efforts by Muslims to create a “modern” Islam by ridding it of “superstitions” like attributing superhuman powers to the prophet. But by becoming more human, Muhammad has also become more vulnerable to insult, and as a result requires the protection of his followers in an ironically secular way.

In contrast to these global concerns, Ms. Bibi’s case is resolutely local and has led to no Muslim agitation outside Pakistan. This is because it emerges from the Muslim disavowal of caste and refusal to acknowledge Pakistan’s ethnic cleansing of the Hindus who are seen to represent it. Just as Muslims take on the character of their vanished Hindu enemies by persecuting low-caste Christians if only in the name of religion, so do Hindu militants in India lynch Muslims by acting the part of medieval invaders who happened to be their coreligionists.

Familiar across the subcontinent, such playacting involves practices such as caste restrictions, forcible conversion and other, more grotesque forms of bodily violence in which a community takes on the role it attributes to its enemies.

Implying a relationship of perverse intimacy with one’s foes, this impersonation also distances perpetrators from their own brutality by turning it into a piece of theater. In all cases it involves the impossible and infinite desire for vengeance against an enemy who has vanished in time, like India’s Muslim invaders of a thousand years ago, or in space, like the Hindus and Sikhs who left Pakistan.

In Pakistan, both the discrimination of caste and the history of religious difference are officially proscribed and forgotten. But for this very reason they continue to haunt the present in disavowed ways that include the charge of blasphemy against Ms. Bibi. In this sense, the passionate defense of their prophet represents a kind of traumatic memory, one that only allows Muslims to obscure a reality that remains unrecognized and therefore unresolved.

Faisal Devji is a professor of Indian history at the University of Oxford.

Source: How Caste Underpins the Blasphemy Crisis in Pakistan

As India Eases Citizenship Path for Hindus, Rohingya Muslims Fear Expulsion

Legacies of partition?

Nar Singh can vividly recall the day in 2014 when Narendra Modi promised to provide refuge to Hindus suffering around the world. The 39-year-old shop owner sat awestruck inside his two-bedroom house in Pakistan’s eastern Mirpur Khas district, as Modi’s voice boomed from the television during his successful campaign to become India’s prime minister.

“If there are atrocities on Hindus in Fiji, where will they go? Should they not come to India? If Hindus are persecuted in Mauritius, where should they go? Hindustan!” Modi declared to a roaring crowd.

For Singh, whose grandfather had been born in British-ruled India before the bloody partition that led to the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Modi’s words resonated deeply. “He spoke so wholeheartedly, it felt like a warm invitation,” said Singh. “I was so proud and happy.”

Living in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where Hindus say they often face religious discrimination and hate crimes, Singh had always felt drawn toward India. Seven months ago, he and his family stepped off a train in India’s border state of Rajasthan with a 25-day pilgrimage visa and no intention of returning. They now live in a hut on government-owned land on the outskirts of Jodhpur city, alongside about 150 other Hindu families from Pakistan.

He is hopeful he will be granted Indian citizenship – a process that, for immigrants such as Singh, would become much easier under a bill likely to be debated in India’s parliament next month. Drafted by the Modi administration, it would tweak the law to relax rules for Hindus and other non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to become Indian citizens.

Critics say the bill is blatantly anti-Muslim and have called it an attempt by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to increase its Hindu voter base ahead of a national election next year. Protests have erupted in recent weeks in the border state of Assam, where a movement against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has simmered for decades.

While the BJP denies the bill is discriminatory, it offers no concessions to Muslim asylum-seekers, whatever their predicament. That is evident in the tourist city of Jaipur, some 200 miles east of Singh’s new home in Jodhpur, where about 80 Muslim Rohingya families eking out a living share none of his optimism.

The group, among the estimated 40,000 Rohingya who live in India after fleeing waves of violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have recently been asked to submit personal details that they fear will be used to deport them back to the country where they say they face persecution.

“We have no option but to fill these out,” said 38-year-old Rohingya community leader Noor Amin as he looked at a stack of forms handed to them by police last week.

Amin fled Myanmar in 2008, when he says his madrassa was shut down by the authorities and harsh restrictions on travel for Rohingya made it impossible for him to continue studying.

Bouts of violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state have continued for many years, culminating in a sweeping military campaign unleashed in August 2017 in response to militant attacks. That crackdown has forced more than 720,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, in what the United Nations’ human rights agency has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Myanmar has denied almost all the accusations made by refugees against its troops, who is said engaged in legitimate counterinsurgency operations.

The Modi government has said the Rohingya in India are illegal immigrants and a security threat. It deported the first seven Rohingya men back to Myanmar last month, despite warnings by rights groups that conditions in Myanmar were not safe for their return and the move was a violation of international law.

“They were sending a message to the whole world about what they really think about us,” said Sayadi Alam, another Rohingya leader in Jaipur.

Alam fled Myanmar a decade ago, hoping for a better life in India. Like many of the Rohingya in Jaipur, he started off picking up scrap and selling it for recycling, but now he drives an electric rickshaw.

“We are not asking for citizenship. We are not asking for anything more,” he said. “Just let us stay here. At least don’t send us back to Myanmar.”

Such is the fear of deportation among the Rohingya in India that some families have fled for Bangladesh in recent weeks, according to community leaders in the capital New Delhi.

CITIZENSHIP LAW

If the Modi government bill passes, critics say it would for the first time seal into law the ruling party’s disregard for Muslims, and take the BJP a step closer to achieving its often-stated ambition to make India a Hindu nation.

“On the one hand the government says it doesn’t want illegal immigrants. Then why are they taking X refugees and not Y?” said Tridivesh Maini, a foreign policy analyst with the Jindal School of International Affairs.

Arun Chaturvedi, a BJP minister in Rajasthan, defended the bill, saying it was meant for persecuted minorities from specific countries. “This is not a dustbin,” he said. “Everyone cannot come here to claim citizenship. Rohingyas have to be deported because they are staying here illegally.”

Modi set up a task force shortly after coming to power in 2014 to speed up the process of granting Pakistani Hindus citizenship. In 2016 the government gave seven states, including Rajasthan, powers to issue citizenship to Hindus and other religious minorities from neighboring Muslim countries, and allowed them to seek driving licenses and national identity cards.

As a result, the number of Pakistani nationals who received Indian citizenship rose to 855 in 2017 from 508 in 2015, according to home ministry data. The number getting long-term visas increased to 4,712 in 2017 from 890 in 2015.

Immigrants like Singh are a meaningful vote base for the BJP. Of the roughly 500,000 Pakistani Hindus who have arrived in Rajasthan since the India-Pakistan war of 1965, some 200,000 are now registered voters, said Hindu Sodha, who runs the Seemant Lok Sangathan non-profit for Pakistani Hindus out of Jodhpur.

India is home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees, but does not have a legal framework for dealing with them and has not signed the 1951 UN Convention for Refugees. Successive governments have dealt with immigrants on an ad hoc basis.

While the citizenship bill has been pegged as a humanitarian effort by the Modi government, some experts said the government would draft a refugee policy or sign the convention if it was serious about the issue.

“Hindus from Pakistan will understandably seek refuge in India, and they deserve to get citizenship, but that doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to the fate of other oppressed communities,” said Maini.

It is unclear how many Hindus move to India, but until 2014 that number was roughly 5,000 a year, said Rakesh Vankwani, patron of the Karachi-based Pakistan Hindu Council and a politician in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf.

Many of those living around Singh’s settlement told stories of harassment and discrimination in Pakistan to explain their move.

One recent afternoon, Singh scrolled through photos on his smartphone of his life back home: a shiny white sedan, fully stocked general stores, and several acres of land.

Singh now sews t-shirts at a factory. He recently fulfilled his father’s dying wish by immersing his ashes in the Ganges, a river considered holy in Hinduism.

Water is scarce, and there is no electricity in the area yet. Still, he says he is much happier than he was in Pakistan.

“I had a big house and lived comfortably, but there was no mental peace because there was no freedom of religion,” he said. “We can be accused of blasphemy any time there. We cannot wear what we want, and our women are not safe there.”

Source: As India Eases Citizenship Path for Hindus, Rohingya Muslims Fear Expulsion

An ancient community in Pakistan fades as conversions to Islam rise

Sad report regarding the fate of a small minority community:

For centuries, a small community of fair-skinned, blue-eyed people known as the Kalasha have inhabited a remote valley in northwest Pakistan, farming and raising animals.

Legend has it that their roots go back to Alexander the Great, whose forces passed through the mountainous region in the 3rd century B.C. But scientific studies describe them as a having “enigmatic” and “complex” origins, possibly being the first migrant group to reach the Indian subcontinent from Asia.

The Kalasha people, who speak a unique dialect, have no written religion or places of worship. Instead, they hold ritual celebrations of seasonal change every spring and fall, with colorful costumes and dancing that have long attracted visitors to their alpine home.

In recent years, however, a new outside influence — Sunni Islam — has started seeping into the valley, changing its way of life and dramatically reducing the number of non-Muslims. In the past three years, according to local surveys, 300 Kalashas have converted, reducing the number of non-converts from about 4,100 to 3,800. Local leaders fear their culture may be swallowed up and vanish.

The pace of conversions has accelerated, especially among young people, with Kalasha girls marrying Muslims and Muslim teachers urging students to convert. There also has been a boom in the construction of mosques, with at least 18 now in the valley.

“After hundreds of years, we have been turned into a minority on our own land,” said Shah Feroz, 27, a volunteer teacher in this hillside town of wooden chalets and steep lanes, located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The religious inroads have become entwined with land disputes, especially over large tracts of forest that Kalasha communities own jointly as a matter of tradition. Last month, one court case over land rights reached the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which instructed the provincial courts to review the issue and report back in one month.

Last summer, the Kalasha gained their first-ever voice in government. Wazirzada Khan, 34, a political activist from the valley, was named to the provincial assembly under the law reserving seats for minorities. His nominator was Imran Khan, then a political leader in the province and now Pakistan’s prime minister.

“The Kalasha are the indigenous owners of the land, forests and mountains. We need laws to preserve our community,” Wazirzada Khan said. Kalashas who convert to Islam “do so willingly,” he added, but the community “should be declared a national heritage with special status.”

Other Kalasha activists said they were historically disdained by Muslims as “infidels,” along with a separate group of Kalashas in Afghanistan’s Nurestan province across the border.

Akram Hussain, 34, a social worker, described himself as “the sole Kalasha survivor in my family” after his mother died and his father married a Muslim woman.

“When a Muslim teacher warns you that you’re an infidel and will be burned in hell, a kid can’t evade this threatening influence,” he said. “I was told by my Muslim teachers to read [Islamic verses] that say it is compulsory to become a Muslim. But we don’t pressure our youths about our Kalasha beliefs.”

Feroz noted that all students in mixed schools are taught Islamic studies. On a recent morning, in the sixth-grade girls’ class at one local school, all Kalasha and Muslim students were reciting Koranic sayings. Feroz said community leaders want a substitute subject, such as ethics, to be taught.

“If you start reading Islamic subjects as compulsory from beginning through university level, then you will be influenced by Islamic teachings,” he said.

In recent years, the Kalasha have attracted European researchers and support, resulting in community benefits including a school that teaches the Kalasha dialect. But some visiting foreigners have also been victims of criminal and insurgent attacks.

According to local leaders, in 2002, a Spanish researcher living in the valley, Jordi Magraner, was found dead with his throat slit, along with two local residents. In 2009, a Greek scholar who helped build the Kalasha school, Athanasion Larounis, was kidnapped by Afghan Taliban forces but eventually freed and returned to Greece.

There have been other episodes of violence attributed to cross-border Taliban intruders. One farmer said two goat keepers had been brutally killed and thousands of goats stolen. “When we ask, we are told that the militants came from Nurestan,” he said.

Yet the larger clash here is the competition between a long-dominant culture with relaxed, secular values and an aggressively expanding faith with strict rules and conservative moral views.

The Kalasha grow grapes and offer free wine to visitors at festivals, where men and women dance together.

They also mourn their dead by dancing and leave them inside coffins above the ground, weighted down by stones with their valuables, though lately they have started burying them because of robbers.

One Kalasha farmer complained of hate speech broadcast through local mosque loudspeakers.

“We don’t make wine to sell, and we don’t force people to drink,” said Shahi Gul, 50, a mother of six. “We are blamed by the local clerics as using wine to tempt Muslim youth, which is not true. We do this as it is allowed in our religion and culture.”

Gul, whose sisters and niece converted to Islam, said she worries about the conversion of so many young Kalashas, especially through marriage. She said girls are “easily converted” by Muslim visitors who woo and marry them.

“We don’t force our children over marriage,” Gul said. “When a Kalasha girl wants to marry a Muslim, she accepts Islam and shifts to a Muslim family.”

Jamroz Khan, a Muslim cleric in the valley whose grandfather converted to Islam 70 years ago, considers Kalasha customs to be wicked, but he said no one in the valley has been converted by force.

“We do our preaching and convince them they should come to the right path,” he said. “We teach them that they are practicing infidelity by mixed gatherings, dancing and using alcohol. We ask them to stop these infidel practices.”

Khan noted with pride that several decades ago, “there was not a single Muslim family here, but now half of the village has accepted Islam,” he said. “All praise to Allah, we are preaching to convert all.”

To Lali Gul, a Kalasha woman who sells traditional costumes and caps, the spread of Islam across the valley will be hard to stop. Muslim tourists, she said, bring money as well as take brides. When her daughter met a Muslim visitor and converted to marry him, she did not try to dissuade her.

“We are free and open-minded people. We don’t interfere in our children’s decisions to be a Kalasha or Muslim,” Gul said. “But our community is shrinking. I fear that very soon, there will be no Kalasha left in this valley.”

Source: An ancient community in Pakistan fades as conversions to Islam rise

How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it

Not as simple as presented in the article. Shariah is the basis for family law in Pakistan and government policy is to obey local laws in adoptions, although it appears to be the case that the exceptions granted by Pakistani courts were not fully factored in.

And I don’t buy the assertion by some of those quoted in the article that national security concerns (regarding babies or toddlers) were a significant consideration:

At the Pakistani orphanage where he was abandoned at birth, little Imran packed his things and said goodbye to the children who weren’t so lucky.

At four years old, Imran believed he would finally have a family.

“Say goodbye to me,” he said. “My mom is coming to take me to Canada.”

That was two years ago. He never made it — all because of a controversial policy that’s kept hopeful Canadians separated from children they had created a space for in their hearts and their homes.

But after a year-long investigation by The Fifth Estate, that may change. The federal government says it will review a decision going back to 2013 when Canada banned adoptions from Pakistan without warning.

At the time, dozens of families’ lives were put on hold — many who had already been matched with a child.

Sarah was one of those hopeful parents, ready to bring Imran home from the orphanage in northern Pakistan. But a world away in Toronto, she finds herself a mother without a son.

The Fifth Estate has agreed to conceal Imran and Sarah’s identities because she feared going public might make it impossible for them to be together.

Mother and child in the eyes of Pakistan, Sarah is too afraid to send Imran photos of herself, worried she’ll become just another person to let him down.

“What if it never happens? I’m going to be the second mother that abandons him?”

She’s not alone.

The Fifth Estate has found Canada quietly extended the same restriction to virtually all Muslim countries. The reason: According to the federal government, adoptions aren’t permissible under Shariah law— even if parents had court orders from Islamic countries explicitly authorizing them.

Documents obtained through access to information legislation reveal the extent to which Canadian officials were delving into the particulars of Shariah law and in the process, bringing adoptions from Muslim countries to a near-halt.

And while the current government may have inherited the policy from its predecessor, families whose lives were brought to a standstill as a result of the Conservative-era decision are calling on the Liberal administration to explain why it has upheld a ban based on a murky set of religious principles they say the Canadian government has no business wading into.

A chance for a new life

It was 2012 when Imran was left a newborn at the Ceena Health and Welfare Services centre in northern Pakistan. The non-profit organization provides health and education support as well as care for abandoned babies in the remote valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan — a place where pregnancy outside marriage is highly taboo and can come with extreme danger to mother and child.

In this region, it isn’t unheard of for babies deemed illegitimate to be buried alive or left in dumpsters.

Some years earlier, Sarah made up her mind that she wanted to adopt and began working to get the necessary approvals.

In Canada, provinces and territories decide whether to allow an adoption after an in-depth application and interview process called a home study and extensive background checks. When the Ontario government sent Sarah a letter approving her to go ahead with the adoption process from Pakistan, her future looked bright.

All that was left was to be matched with a child who needed a home.

Adopting from Pakistan isn’t straightforward. Like Canada, the country’s laws are based on the British system. But they also draw from Islamic tradition, which generally holds that a child’s biological ties must never be severed.

In Pakistan, one of few options for children in need is a guardianship, which can be compared to fostering. A guardianship is the legal form of what’s known in many Muslim countries as kafala: a child receives the care that comes with being part of a family but the guardians don’t replace biological parents.

Pakistan has no official adoption law. But to provide a chance at a new life for the tens of thousands of orphaned or abandoned children there, the courts can grant permission to a guardian to take a child abroad for adoption — as they did for Imran.

Each year, Pakistan’s courts allow dozens of children to be taken to countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom for adoption.

It was the same for Canadian parents until 2013, when the federal government abruptly closed the door, leaving the lives of more than 50 families on hold.

According to the federal government at the time, continuing with adoptions from Pakistan violated Canada’s commitment to the Hague Convention on international adoption. Under the convention, it argued, it could only process adoptions where a parent-child relationship was created in the child’s home country — something it argued was impossible under Shariah law.

That’s a view not shared by the United States and United Kingdom, which are also Hague Convention members. Both countries allow citizens who have been approved for adoptions to bring their child home through a Pakistan court order. Back at home, the adoption process is finalized under domestic laws.

Why the sudden change in Canadian policy? The answers aren’t immediately clear.

‘Strictly prohibited under Shariah’

Emails from 2013 show federal officials were rounding up support from the provinces and territories for the ban, with bureaucrats becoming increasingly preoccupied with the intricacies of Islamic law.

“It is reasonable to assume that … a change in the child’s parentage is strictly prohibited under Shariah law,” reads one document dated June 2013 from federal officials to the provinces and territories.

“In the Islamic view, the child does not become a true child of the ‘adoptive’ parents…. Kafala, then, neither terminates the birth parent-child relationship nor grants full parental rights to the person (guardian),” it goes on.

For Canada to be in the business of interpreting Shariah law is baffling, said Sarah.

“I have had two judges, Pakistani judges from courts over there, say ‘Take this child, go to Canada and adopt him,’ ” she said. “So the judges in Pakistan don’t understand their own faith? Their own laws? But Canada knows better?”

Emails from federal officials in 2013 show the push for the ban appeared to the originate with Canada’s High Commission in Islamabad, which said the number of adoption cases was growing exponentially. In response to the push, federal officials hurried to put the policy in place, not wanting to tip off Canadian families or adoption agencies until they did so.

And while at first some provinces seemed to resist the push coming from the High Commission, by July 2, parents were waking up to a notice posted on the government’s website telling them adoptions were no longer possible.

Exceptions were supposed to be made for families far enough into the process. But while Sarah and several others began their adoptions well ahead of the ban, many found themselves facing roadblocks when the policy came into effect.

Saskatoon-based immigration lawyer Haidah Amirzadeh, who has taken on numerous cases of Canadians separated from the children they’re the guardians of, wonders if the ban wasn’t simply part of a federal government attempt to limit immigration from Muslim countries.

I would say it was politically motivated,” Amirzadeh said.

Whether or not that was the case is difficult to say. The documents obtained by The Fifth Estate surrounding the adoption ban don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Multiple pages are redacted.

But one of them, dated June 25, 2013, is a memo marked “secret,” titled “Canadian programming to counter the terrorist threat from Pakistan.”

The memo, addressed to the then-minister of foreign affairs, was sent just days before the moratorium went into place and raises the question of what national security could have had to do with banning adoptions from Pakistan.

For Osgoode Hall law professor Faisal Bhabha, who researches the intersection of law and religion, the idea of the federal government concerning itself with religious doctrine isn’t new, but it is unnerving. He argues the Harper government in particular tended to invoke conservative beliefs in the context of national security — where he argues they used it to stereotype people.

“This is another form of profiling in a way,” he said. “I would not put any nefarious motive beyond the previous government.”

Canadian officials quietly expand ban

In the aftermath of the ban, heartbroken parents took to the media worried they’d never be united with their adopted children. At the time, the hope among some parents and advocates was that the policy might eventually be overturned.

But until now, it appears the federal government has only defended the decision. As recently as 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office did exactly that.

“The legal regime in Pakistan does not allow for or recognize the concept of adoption,” read a letter from Hussen’s office to one parent still fighting the ban. Guardianship orders, it continued, don’t allow children to be adopted in a guardian’s country of residence.

There was no acknowledgement by the federal government that the Pakistani courts routinely grant explicit permission to parents living abroad to complete adoptions in their home countries.

The Fifth Estate contacted Pakistan’s High Commission in Ottawa, which said Canada’s claim that Pakistan doesn’t allow for adoptions is simply false.

“We believe that the ban from the Canadian government is unjustified,” commission press minister Nadeem Kiani said in an interview. “Citizens of Canada should be allowed to adopt children from Pakistan.”

While on paper the ban applies only to Pakistan, it appears Canadian officials extended the same reasoning to adoptions from almost any Muslim country. In 2015, CBC News obtained hundreds of pages of documents about the decision, uncovering that Canada hadn’t ruled out broadening it.

In 2017, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada confirmed Pakistan wasn’t alone.

While on paper the ban applies only to Pakistan, it appears Canadian officials extended the same reasoning to adoptions from any Muslim country. (Habiba Nosheen/CBC)

“Under federal law, the same rules would apply to a kafala/guardianship order from any foreign state,” wrote Nancy Caron.

As it turns out, Canadian officials have been restricting adoptions from various Muslim countries on an ad hoc basis for at least a decade — saying those countries don’t allow adoption and citing Shariah law.

Court documents show Canadian visa agents did just that in cases dating back to 2008 involving Iran, Sudan and Iraq. And as recently as 2017, four orphaned brothers were barred from coming to Canada from Yemen on the same grounds.

Amirzadeh says she’s seen cases from Qatar, Afghanistan and Algeria blocked for the same reason.

‘Not for the state to make decisions’ about religion

For Bhabha, Canada’s argument that adoption is prohibited in Shariah law amounts to outright discrimination.

“It imposes a burden on adoptions that pertain only to children that have a particular ethnic, national, religious identity,” he said. “It can deny them the benefit of being adopted.”

Besides, he said, “it’s not for the Canadian state to make a decision based on what is Shariah-compliant … it’s not for the state to make decisions about what the correct interpretation of a religion is.”

And while the ban originated with the previous government, Bhabha argues it’s up to the current one to explain why it has continued to implement it.

The Fifth Estate made multiple requests for an interview with Hussen. He declined, instead sending a statement through his spokesperson.

“We have asked the department to initiate a review of this policy and begin consultations with Pakistan as well as provincial and territorial governments to determine a path forward to regularize adoptions from Pakistan,” press secretary Mathieu Genest said in an email dated Oct. 5.

“Harmonizing the laws of two countries can often be challenging and rather than trying to overcome these obstacles, the Harper government imposed a moratorium on all adoptions from Pakistan.”

How long that review might take and whether Canadians in the process of adopting when the ban went into place can expect action in the meantime, the email didn’t say. Genest also didn’t say whether Canadians blocked from adopting from other Muslim countries can expect any relief from this review.

“This decision has not been revisited by this government until it was brought to our attention.”

Source: How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it