Posts Tagged ‘ Rawalpindi ’

Why I believe Pakistanis are the most gracious people in the world

By Harsh Mander for Scroll.In and Dawn.com

Pakistan Generosity

My mother was forced to leave behind the city of her birth, Rawalpindi, when she was just 18 because of the tumultuous ruptures of Partition. She had never returned. When she was to turn 75, I thought the best gift I could give her was to take her, if it was at all possible, to the city and to the home in which she was born.

I emailed my friends in Pakistan tentatively with my plan. They were immediately very welcoming.

“Just get her a visa, leave the rest to us,” they said. I applied for visas for my parents and the rest of my family. It seemed then a small miracle that we got these easily. I booked our flight tickets, and before long we were on our way.

A warm welcome

Our flight landed in Lahore, and our friends drove us from the airport to their home in Islamabad. I noticed that my mother was initially a little tense. Maybe it was memories of the violence of her exile; maybe it was just the idea that this was now a foreign land, and for many in India the enemy land.

I watched my mother gradually relax on the road journey to Islamabad, as she delighted in hearing my friends and the car driver speak the Punjabi of her childhood, and as she watched the altered landscape of her journey. Islamabad, of course, did not exist when she lived in the Punjab of her days.

In Islamabad, my friends invited to their homes many of their associates with their parents. They organised evenings of Punjabi poetry and music, which my parents relished. Our friends drove us to Murree, the hill-station in which my mother spent many pleasant summers as a child.

My mother had just one more request. Could she go to see the colony in Rawalpindi where she was born and spent her childhood in? My father also wanted to visit his college, the famous Gordon College in Rawalpindi.

A homecoming

My mother recalled that the name of the residential colony in which she lived as a child was called Gawal Mandi. My friends knew it well; it was now an upmarket upper middle-class enclave.

When we reached there, my mother tried to locate the house of her childhood. It seemed impossible. Everything was new: most of the old houses had been rebuilt and opulent new structures had come up in their place.

She located the building that had housed their gurudwara. It had now been converted into a health centre. But we had almost despaired of actually finding her childhood house. We doubted if it was even standing all these years later.

We were leaving when suddenly my mother pointed to the filigree work on the balconies of one of the old houses. My mother said: “I remember it because my father was very proud of the designs. He said there was none like it in the neighbourhood.”

Taking a chance, we knocked tentatively on the door of the house. A middle-aged man opened it, and asked us who we wanted to meet.

My mother said apologetically, “We are so sorry to trouble you, and intrude suddenly in this way. But I lived as a child in Gawal Mandi, before Partition, when we had to leave for India. I think this maybe was our home.”

The house owner’s response was spontaneous and immediate.

Mataji, why do you say that this was your home? It continues to be your home even today. You are most welcome.”

And he led us all in.

Before long, my mother confirmed that this was indeed her childhood home. She went from room to room, and then to the terrace, almost in a trance, recalling all the while fragments of her childhood memories in various corners of this house.

For months after we returned to Delhi, she would tell me that recollections of the house returned to her in her dreams.

Take a look: Why my heart said Pakistan Zindabad!

Half an hour later, we thanked the house-owners and said that we would be on our way. But they would not hear of it.

We were told: “You have come to your childhood home, then how can we let you go without you having a meal with us here?”

They overruled all our protestations, and lunch was prepared for around eight members of our party, including not just my family but also our Pakistani hosts. Only when they were sure that we had eaten our fill, and more, did they allow us to leave.

Caravan to Pakistan

After we returned to India, news of our adventure spread quickly among family and friends. The next year, my mother-in-law — a wheel-chair user — requested that we take her to Pakistan to visit her childhood home, this time in Gujranwala.

Given the joys of my parents’ successful visit, I was more confident. Many elderly aunts and an elderly uncle joined the trip, and in the end my wife and I accompanied six older people to Pakistan.

Our experience was very similar to that of the previous year. The owner of their old ancestral haveli in Gujranwala village took my mother-in-law around the sprawling property on her wheel-chair, and after we had eaten with them asked her: “Would you not like to check out your farm-lands?”

On both visits, wherever my wife visited shops for clothes, footwear or handicrafts, if the shopkeepers recognised her to be Indian, they would invariably insist on a hefty concession on the price. “You are our guests,” they would say. “How can we make a profit from our guests?”

As news of these visits travelled further, my associates from an NGO Ashagram working in the small town of Barwani in Madhya Pradesh for the care and rights of persons living with leprosy — with which I have had a long association — demanded that I organise a visit to Pakistan for them too.

See: Pakistanis seem to love Indians. Do Indians feel the same way?

Once again, the Pakistan High Commission granted them visas. There was only one catch this time: all of them were vegetarian. They enjoyed greatly the week they spent in Pakistan, except for the food.

Every night they would set out looking for a wayside shop to buy fruit juice. Each night they found a new shop, and each night without exception, the shopkeeper refused to accept any money for the fruit juice. “We will not charge money from our guests from India,” they would say each time.

This happened for a full week.

I have travelled to many countries around the world in the 60 years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in Pakistan.

This declaration is my latest act of sedition.


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In Sign of Normalization, Pentagon to Reimburse Pakistan $688 Million

By ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER for The New York Times

Kerry Panetta

The Pentagon quietly notified Congress this month that it would reimburse Pakistan nearly $700 million for the cost of stationing 140,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan, an effort to normalize support for the Pakistani military after nearly two years of crises and mutual retaliation.

The biggest proponent of putting foreign aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan on a steady footing is the man President Barack Obama is leaning toward naming as secretary of state: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. Mr. Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has frequently served as an envoy to Pakistan, including after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and was a co-author of a law that authorized five years and about $7.5 billion of nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan.

The United States also provides about $2 billion in annual security assistance, roughly half of which goes to reimburse Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism.

Until now, many of these reimbursements, called coalition support funds, have been held up, in part because of disputes with Pakistan over the Bin Laden raid, the operations of the C.I.A., and its decision to block supply lines into Afghanistan last year.

The $688 million payment — the first since this summer, covering food, ammunition and other expenses from June through November 2011 — has caused barely a ripple of protest since it was sent to Capitol Hill on Dec. 7.

The absence of a reaction, American and Pakistani officials say, underscores how relations between the two countries have been gradually thawing since Pakistan reopened the NATO supply routes in July after an apology from the Obama administration for an errant American airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011.

Mr. Kerry’s nomination would be welcomed in Pakistan, where he is seen as perhaps the most sympathetic to Pakistani concerns of any senior lawmaker. He has nurtured relationships with top civilian and military officials, as well as the I.S.I., Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency.

But if he becomes secretary of state, Mr. Kerry will inherit one of the hardest diplomatic tasks in South Asia: helping Pakistan find a role in steering Afghanistan toward a political agreement with the Taliban. As the United States, which tried and failed to broker such an agreement, begins to step back, Pakistan’s role is increasing.

For a relationship rocked in the past two years by a C.I.A. contractor’s shooting of two Pakistanis, the Navy SEAL raid that killed Bin Laden and the accidental airstrike, perhaps the most remarkable event in recent months has been relative calm. A senior American official dealing with Pakistan said recently that “this is the longest we’ve gone in a while without a crisis.”

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said, “Pakistan-United States relations are settling down to a more stable trajectory.”

The interlude has allowed the United States to reduce the huge backlog of NATO supplies at the border — down to about 3,000 containers from 7,000 when the border crossings reopened — and to conduct dry runs for the tons of equipment that will flow out of Afghanistan to Pakistani ports when the American drawdown steps up early next year.

Moreover, the two sides have resumed a series of high-level meetings — capped by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meeting this month with top Pakistani officials in Brussels — on a range of topics including counterterrorism, economic cooperation, energy and the security of Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, concurred. “There’s greater convergence between the two countries than there has been in eight years,” she said. “It’s been a fairly quick kiss and make up, but it’s been driven by the approaching urgency of 2014, and by their shared desire for a stable outcome in the region.”

The one exception to the state of calm has been a tense set of discussions about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. United States officials have told their Pakistani colleagues that Islamabad’s move to smaller, more portable weapons creates a greater risk that one could be stolen or diverted. A delegation of American nuclear experts was in Pakistan last week, but found that the two countries had fundamentally divergent views about whether Pakistan’s changes to its arsenal pose a danger.

The greatest progress, officials say, has been in the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, after years of mutual recrimination. A high-level Afghan delegation visited Pakistan in November, resulting in the release of several midlevel Taliban commanders from Pakistani jails as a sign of good will in restarting the peace process.

The United States, which was quietly in the background of those meetings, approved of the release of the prisoners, but has still held back on releasing five militants from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a key Taliban demand.

One American official said there was a “big push” to move the talks process forward during the current winter lull in fighting. The United States is quietly seeking to revive a peace channel in Qatar, which was frozen earlier this year after the Taliban refused to participate.

Despite the easing of tensions in recent months, there are still plenty of sore spots in the relationship.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, who heads the Pentagon agency responsible for combating roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, told a Senate hearing last week that Pakistan’s efforts to stem the flow of a common agricultural fertilizer, calcium ammonium nitrate, that Taliban insurgents use to make roadside bombs had fallen woefully short.

“Our Pakistani partners can and must do more,” General Barbero told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing.

American officials have also all but given up on Pakistan’s carrying out a clearing operation in North Waziristan, a major militant safe haven.

“Pakistan’s continued acceptance of sanctuaries for Afghan-focused insurgents and failure to interdict I.E.D. materials and components continue to undermine the security of Afghanistan and pose an enduring threat to U.S., coalition and Afghan forces,” a Pentagon report, mandated by Congress, concluded last week.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Kerry for Secretary is a great choice now that Susan Rice did not work out. We love Hillary Clinton and as a Democrat and Liberal through and through, as much as we wish Secretary Clinton a speedy recovery and look forward to voting for her as the first woman President of the United States, it is high time to have a man in there as a Secretary working together with Secretary Panetta. John Kerry is a good and honorable soldier who is a patriot and will uphold American interests but will be a person who is very familiar with Pakistan and the need to have a dialogue with the men who man the barracks in Rawalpindi, regardless who happens to be the Prime Minister in Islamabad. We hope he has a speedy confirmation and no obstructionism by the Do Nothing GOP~

Pakistan Minister ‘Hopeful’ For Blasphemy Girl Bail

As Reported by The Associated Press

A Pakistani cabinet minister says he is “very hopeful” a young Christian girl accused of blasphemy will be released on bail later this week after spending more than three weeks in custody.

Rimsha Masih is currently on remand in the high-security Adiyala jail in Islamabad’s twin city Rawalpindi after being arrested on August 16 for allegedly burning pages containing verses from the Koran.

She is “uneducated” and has a mental age of less than 14, according to a medical report, and her case has prompted international concern and anger from rights campaigners.

Proceedings to free Rimsha on bail have been repeatedly postponed, most recently on Monday when Judge Muhammad Azam Khan again adjourned the matter after the lawyer for her accuser asked for a stay to show solidarity with a provincial lawyers’ strike.

Paul Bhatti, the Minister for National Harmony told AFP in an interview on Monday he was optimistic the youngster would be released at the next hearing, on Friday.

“Unfortunately there was strike of the lawyers and that was a technical problem and it was not possible to proceed (with) the hearing,” he said.
“On the 7th we are very hopeful that she would be released.”

The case took an unexpected twist on Saturday when the imam who first gave police evidence against Rimsha was accused by his deputy of adding pages from the Koran to the burnt papers taken from Rimsha.

Activists say legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas, and even unproven allegations can prompt a violent public response.
But it is rare to see anyone investigated for making a false allegation or interfering with evidence of blasphemy and Bhatti said it could be an important turning point.

“The disclosure about the tampering with the evidence will discourage future accusers to misuse this law,” Bhatti said.
Bhatti is Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet minister. His brother and predecessor Shahbaz was gunned down last year for speaking out against the blasphemy law.

The Unsolicited Symbolism of Amir Khan

By Shahan Mufti for Grantland

British, Pakistani, Muslim — how fans from Islamabad to London to New York process the champion boxer.

Since the very beginning of his career, Amir Khan has been more than just a boxer. He has been a symbol — well, more like symbols. One fighter, whose ethnic background, birthplace, and blinding hand speed mean very different things to different groups of fans. Khan himself has little control over how the people watching him choose to interpret his success.

It started early, when Khan was 17 years old and won a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. He became not only the “pride of Bolton,” his hometown, but also “the great young hope of British Boxing.” Khan decided to turn professional soon after, but days before his debut, the mood around Khan’s celebrity changed. The coordinated bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005 were the largest terrorist attack in British history. Three of the four bombers were, like Khan, of Pakistani origin, and all of them hailed from within a hundred miles of Khan’s home in Northern England. Khan, whose Olympic run established him as the country’s most prominent homegrown Muslim athlete, had no choice but to speak up. “I hope, by stepping into a ring, I can show all young kids in Britain, whether they are white, Muslims, or whatever, that there are better things to do than sitting around on street corners getting into trouble and mixing with bad people.” Ten days after the attacks, Khan proudly held the Union Flag when he walked to the ring. It was embroidered with the word “London” in black ribbons to mourn the victims. Moments after Khan wrapped up a first-round TKO victory, the police issued a red alert for a bomb scare and evacuated the arena.

At the ripe age of 18, Khan was not only a professional fighter, but also an unofficial spokesperson for Muslims and Asians in the U.K. Like it or not, he was a role model for underprivileged children caught at the crossroads of drugs, poverty, and now international terrorism. He also became “the best thing to happen for race relations in Britain.” All this translated into tremendous box office appeal. Before his London debut, for example, Khan visited Brick Lane, a large South Asian neighborhood on London’s East End, to promote the fight. “We brought him to the heart of the Asian community and we hope they will turn out and support him,” promoter Frank Warren said. They did. His next fight, against Belarussian Vitali Martynov, sold 10,000 tickets. It was Khan’s fifth professional fight.

Seven years later, it’s more of the same. Wherever Khan goes, he seems to carry the aspirations and insecurities of fans from all over the world. At the time of his last fight, on December 10, 2011, I was in Pakistan, a few miles away from Khan’s ancestral home, near Rawalpindi. Pakistanis aren’t die-hard boxing fans, but the sport isn’t completely unknown on the national scene. Of the two Olympic medals Pakistan has won in individual events, one is in boxing. Before every Khan fight, highlights from his previous bouts and flashy promos amped with heavy metal soundtracks start running on a loop on Pakistani television. Local governments set up big screens in public markets, and dense crowds arrive to cheer for Khan. Everything from his ring entrance to his punches to his post-match interviews are parsed and analyzed for how they reflect on Pakistan and its people.

In Pakistan, the buildup to Khan’s December bout with Lamont Peterson was feverish even by the local media’s distorted standards. Exactly two Saturdays before the fight, a swarm of American jet fighters and attack helicopters swooped into Pakistani territory from bases in neighboring Afghanistan and let loose a barrage of missiles targeting two Pakistani military posts. When the smoke cleared, 24 Pakistani soldiers were dead. The reaction was something like what it might have been if a Pakistani helicopter had flown into American territory and killed two dozen American soldiers: People cried bloody murder. America refused to apologize for the attack and instead blamed Pakistan for provoking it. In response, Pakistan cut off the American military supply routes that run through its territory to deprive U.S. forces in Afghanistan of equipment and food. The resulting standoff was the closest the two countries had come to all-out war after a decade of complex military rivalry.

While the world watched the diplomatic stare-down between two nuclear states, Pakistanis looked to Khan’s fight for a taste of vengeance. Khan’s opponent wasn’t just a real-life American — he was a real-life American from Washington, D.C. And in Pakistan, Washington is not just the name of another American city (never mind that the Washington from which Peterson hails bears little resemblance to the government monoliths that most Pakistanis associate with the city). Vashing-tone is the dark lair from which Obama orders the drone strikes that hit Pakistani villages every week. Vashing-tone is the Pentagon that drops American Special Forces into Pakistan in the dark of night to take out Osama. It’s akin to what the Kremlin meant to Americans during the Cold War. Actually, it’s not unlike what the word “PACK-istan” conjures up in many Americans’ minds today.

The Peterson fight would be Khan’s fourth in the United States, and this time he would enter the ring accompanied not only by the Union Jack, but also by the green flag of Pakistan with its white crescent. Unlike the battlefield, the American was the underdog in this fight, which ended up being one of 2011’s best. At the end, two questionable point deductions by the referee cost Khan the bout, and he lost on the scorecards. Khan let the alarm bells ring before he’d even left the ring. “It was like I was against two people in there, Lamont and the ref himself,” he said. Golden Boy Promotions appealed the decision a week later and the IBF began an investigation into the scoring of the fight.

Two weeks later, Khan flew to Pakistan. He travels there every so often to visit his parents’ homeland, but this time he visited to lend some star power to a Pakistani boxing tournament. When Khan arrived in the country, this is what you might have found while flipping through the dozen-odd local news channels: a steaming-mad middle-aged man calling for war against America; a montage from the Khan-Peterson fight showing Khan’s best combinations and Peterson hitting the mat again and again and again; an elaborate computer-generated graphic re-creating the American attack on the border posts; a field of caskets draped in Pakistani flags; Khan at a press conference calling the judges’ decision “disgusting” or saying something like “let’s take the fight somewhere neutral and I’ll see if he’s the same man.” The TV channels almost didn’t need different talking heads to discuss the two conflicts. The narrative was essentially the same: Americans play dirty, and when they feel like they’re losing, they cheat.

It was in the middle of such channel flipping that I found Amir Khan on my screen, being interviewed on Khyber News, a regional outfit that telecasts in the Pashto language to the Pashtuns, most of whom live along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan, including in the troubled tribal areas. Khan was seated on a plush, bright orange-and-yellow sofa, watching the tournament at ringside. The interviewer threw questions at him in Urdu and Khan answered in English, but that was no problem — Khan demonstrated a solid understanding of the questions in Urdu. It was the substance of the questions, which were less interested in Khan’s boxing career than in exploring the prospects of an interviewer, a TV channel, an ethnic group, and a nation’s hopes for itself on the global stage. Here are excerpts:

[“Khyber” is what Pakistanis call the northwest Afghan border regions. Inshallah means, “If Allah wills it.”]

INTERVIEWER: Does Amir Khan like the international popularity more or the love he gets from Pakistanis?
KHAN: Ummmm … it’s the same, you know. It’s the same in England. And in Pakistan, very same. You know? I’d say it’s the same everywhere we go. The two places where we get a lot of love is in England and also in Pakistan …

INTERVIEWER: Khyber News wants to show your fights live. I just talked to your father about this as well, but in the future do you think you will have a relationship with Khyber News?
KHAN: Yeah, definitely, I think it’s a good idea. We’re happy to work with anybody. To work with Khyber News will be, maybe good, you know. Let me speak to my team and inshallah the next fight for me will be in April or May against Lamont Peterson — I want a rematch — so maybe it can be on Khyber News. Let’s see what happens. I will try and speak to my team also …
INTERVIEWER: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a ‘Khyber’ logo next to the ‘Khan’?
KHAN: Khyber Khan? Yeah, you know, maybe … [Laughs uncomfortably.]

INTERVIEWER: One more question, we’ve heard you have found your life partner and she lives in USA, I think. Is she Pakistani or is she from there?
KHAN: No, no. She’s Pakistani.
INTERVIEWER: Where from in Pakistan?
KHAN: Her father’s from Multan and her mother’s from Lahore.
INTERVIEWER: So she’s Punjabi?
KHAN: Yeah, I think so.
INTERVIEWER: When are you going to get married?
KHAN: Oh, not for a long time. I’m getting engaged next month so inshallah I’ll let the engagement happen first. Step at a time, brother.
INTERVIEWER: Will you keep fighting after the marriage?
KHAN: Yeah, yeah, it’s my job. It’s my job. I love boxing.
Any final thoughts? “To everybody in Pakistan, I want to say I hope they watch my next fight. Inshallah I’ll win for them. I’ll do it for my people in Pakistan.”

Khan seems to have understood what’s expected of him.

Where is Amir Khan from? The question follows Khan wherever he goes. Without a doubt that same question was asked when he arrived in New York to defend his WBA light welterweight title against Paulie Malignaggi in 2010. At the weigh-in, a group of 40 or so Pakistani-British fans who call themselves “Khan’s Army” caused pandemonium. Their fervent support for Khan was reminiscent of British football supporters, but with a Muslim twist. “If anyone can, Khan can,” they bellowed. “Amir, Amir, Amir.” This was punctuated several times with the loudest call of all: “Allah-o-Akbar.” While Khan and Malignaggi engaged in a stare-down for the flashing cameras, their supporters were in the throes of a full-fledged brawl.

Khan’s Army is no jihadi outfit. This is just how they show love for their fighter. But America was understandably tone-deaf to Khan’s Army when the latter first arrived in the country. How many times in the previous decade had a large group of brown men chanted “Allah-o-Akbar” with such confrontational zeal in New York City? You could probably ask any Pakistani immigrant — a taxi driver in New York or a heart surgeon in Chicago — or even a Pakistani in Pakistan and they would all tell you with equal certainty: It is not a good idea to gather in large groups with other men who look like you and scream “Allah-o-Akbar” for any reason whatsoever, especially in New York. But then, Khan’s Army is not Pakistani; nor is it Pakistani American. They are British Pakistanis and they are part of a different culture, one in which “Allah-o-Akbar” often has more to do with ethnic pride than with Allah.

Khan was born in a town called Bolton, on the outskirts of Manchester in northern England, a fact he demonstrates by failing to pronounce the letter t when it comes in the middle of a word. Long before Manchester became famous for its football clubs, the city was an engine of the industrial revolution. The region’s textile mills attracted thousands of immigrants from the former British colonies in South Asia. Khan’s family arrived in the 1970s from the northern Punjab region of Pakistan.

Today, “Asians” — that’s what the British call South Asian immigrants from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh — make up about 5 percent of the population of England, and together they are the country’s largest minority group. A large majority of British Asians are Muslim, and a vast majority of Muslims are Pakistani immigrants. Khan’s father did well as a scrap metal merchant, and although Khan grew up in a comfortable home, his family still lived in a depressed part of Bolton. In general, Pakistani immigrants are some of the poorest people in Britain, living in some of the more violent and drug-ridden neighborhoods in London and the big cities of the North.

Amir “King” Khan was arguably the best thing that ever happened to this community. So when Khan left his English promoter to join Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions in 2010, some in Britain saw the move as more than just a desire for big money. Maybe Amir was trying to get away, to base his career in a country where every business decision he makes and every punch he throws is not fraught with ethnic, religious, and class symbolism. And how did that reflect on Britain itself? Kevin Mitchell, the Guardian’s boxing correspondent, blamed “the small crew of British bigots who have taken against Khan” and driven him out of the country. “Over there, living quietly and comfortably in the Californian sunshine,” Mitchell lamented, “he is accepted without question by the fans — black and white Americans, Filipinos, Mexicans, all of them.”

Khan’s other British fans didn’t seem to mind the move as much. They just started traveling en masse to the United States for his fights. Khan’s Army remains as die-hard as ever, but it seems that they’ve toned down the “Allah-o-Akbar” — at least in America.

Amir Khan will step into the ring Saturday night with undefeated light welterweight champion Danny Garcia. The bout has been a long time coming for Khan — the seven-month layoff since his December loss to Peterson is as long an inactive period as he has had in his career. He was scheduled to fight Peterson in a May rematch that was canceled after Peterson tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Peterson also admitted to having the banned substance in his system before the first Khan fight, and that led the WBA to reinstate Khan as its 140-pound champion earlier this week. The Pakistani press had a ball with the news about Peterson’s failed drug test, but it sent Khan scrambling to find a new opponent. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan was coming up in mid-July, and Khan, as always, planned to fast. After that, he probably wouldn’t be in fighting shape until winter. Khan has already fought almost every credible opponent in the 140-pound weight class and so Garcia, the current WBC champion, seemed like the best option, even if Khan would be a heavy favorite in the fight.

Ever since the match was set up, Angel Garcia, Danny’s father and trainer, has been calling Khan an “overrated” fighter. But that’s not all he’s saying. He proclaimed that he has “never, ever, ever in my lifetime, that I’ve been living 49 years, I ain’t never met a Pakistani that could fight.” Then, somewhat nonsensically, he dismissed Khan as a “European fighter from Europe.” Finally, for good measure, he went after Khan’s religion: “I know Khan’s god already. His god is a punishing god. And my god is a loving god.” At the press conference in Los Angeles to announce the fight, Garcia senior cut off everyone from team Khan and began ranting about “magic carpets” and a “genie.” Boxers and their camps always play up their mutual dislike to promote fights, but Angel Garcia seems genuinely perturbed by Khan. It was at the end of the presser, when Angel was practically spitting with rage, that the elder Garcia yelled what he was really getting at this whole time: “Where you from, man? Europe? America? Where you from?”

California has been good to Khan. Since relocating to Los Angeles to train at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym, he’s been spotted sitting courtside at Laker games, he’s been featured in a GQ fashion spread, and he’s been photographed on the red carpet for the L.A. Spider-Man premiere. He even got to throw the first pitch at a Dodgers game this month, and it reportedly zipped right over home plate. With the exception of Angel Garcia, America and Amir Khan seem to be getting along just fine.

Islam, Pakistani, Muslim, European — none of those are necessarily flattering descriptions in America these days, but Khan continues to hold together the various strands of his identity and carry the dreams of people halfway across the world, and perhaps that’s what’s most appealing about him. Which flag is he going to carry into the ring this weekend? Will he someday add the Stars and Stripes to his collection? At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that there will be people spread across a dozen time zones, all of whom will root for Khan, all for their very own personal and selfish reasons. And as long as he keeps delivering, Khan’s Army will be there, too, in ever-growing numbers. Khan said once about his fans that “they might not be boxing fans, but they might be Amir Khan fans, y’ge’ me?” It’s a figure like this who can transcend boxing’s current status as a niche sport and grow from a prizefighter to a global sports figure.

Shahan Mufti is a freelance journalist whose work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Wired, The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The Atlantic, among other places. He is at work on a book about Muslim identity in Pakistan that comes out next year. This is his first piece in Grantland.

Pakistan Court Suspends Death Sentence of Governor’s Killer

By Shaan Khan For CNN

A Pakistani court has suspended the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, a security guard who killed a liberal politician over the latter’s remarks on the nation’s controversial blasphemy law.

“Qadri was provoked by the governor and should therefore be tried for murder, not an act of terror which is what he was tried for earlier” said his attorney Raja Shuja Ur Rehman in confirming the judge’s decision.

Earlier this month, a terror court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Pakistan’s capital, sentenced Qadri to death. The Islamabad High Court suspended the sentence Tuesday until the appeals process is complete. The court did not say when it will meet again to consider the case.

Police said Qadri, a policeman serving as a security guard for Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, fatally shot him in a market in Islamabad on January 4 because of Taseer’s remarks on Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law. Police said Qadri confessed to gunning down the man he was supposed to be protecting. Qadri’s lawyer appealed the sentence imposed by the Anti-Terrorist Court, saying the court did not have the jurisdiction to make the death penalty decision.

Taseer, a successful businessman as well as politician, had said Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law is too harsh. The law makes it a crime punishable by death to insult Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed. The legislation has been criticized by some as being used to entrap minorities.

Pakistanis, Indians want peace, friendship, says poll

As Reported by SANA (South Asian News Agency)

Despite a history of conflicts, mistrust and estranged relationship, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis and Indians want peace and friendship between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations, a survey conducted on both sides of the border has revealed.

The survey – conducted by independent research agencies and sponsored by the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India on the first anniversary of their joint peace initiative ‘Aman Ki Asha’ – showed that 70 per cent of Pakistanis and 74 per cent of Indians want peaceful relations.

Although, the process of composite dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi remains stalled since the 2008 Mumbai carnage, 72 per cent Pakistanis and 66 per cent Indians hope to see ’sustainable friendly relations’ in their lifetime. Compared with last year, the number of Indians hoping to see peace in their lifetime has surged by 17 per cent.

The optimism at the people’s level appears in a stark contrast to the current bitter official positions. The Indian government accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and not doing enough against the alleged sponsors of the Mumbai attack, while Islamabad says that New Delhi has been using this incident as a ‘propaganda’ tool to avoid talks on the core issue of Kashmir. Islamabad also blames India for instigating violence in Balochistan.

According to the survey, awareness of the Kashmir problem as being central to the state of relations between the two countries, particularly in India, has increased. The survey results show that 77 per cent Pakistanis and 87 per cent of Indians feel that peace can be achieved by settling the protracted Kashmir dispute.

The scientific survey covered 10 Pakistani cities and 42 villages, covering a cross-section of people from rural and urban areas. Pakistani cities where the survey was carried out were: Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Faisalabad, Hyderabad and Sukkur. In India, the survey was conducted in six cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad (Deccan) and Chennai. Adult population, both male and female, were represented in the survey.

This was the second survey on Pakistan-India relations. The first survey was conducted in December 2009; just before the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign was launched. Survey results show a consistent and marked improvement in perceptions about each other by people in both countries.

The survey showed that the issue of Pakistan-India relations featured in the thoughts of 73 per cent Pakistanis and 68 per cent Indians. The survey results said apart from settling the Kashmir dispute, 80 per cent Pakistanis and 91 per cent Indians think ’stronger relations and better defence’ would also contribute in achieving the goal of peace.

The survey tracked the impact of the Aman Ki Asha campaign in India by asking a similar set of questions to two groups of people – one aware of this peace campaign and the other not aware of it. On all four questions asked – perceiving Pakistan as a high threat to India, as a sponsor of terror, desire for peace and being hopeful for achieving sustainable peace – there was a marked difference in the responses of the two groups. The group that was aware of the Aman Ki Asha initiative had a much better perception of Pakistan.

Around 77 per cent of Pakistanis and 87 per cent Indians consider that international pressure may help in bringing peace, while 71 per cent Pakistanis and 72 per cent Indians pin hopes on greater people-to-people contact to pave the way for friendly relations. Eighty-one per cent Pakistanis and Indians see people-to-people contact as an effective ‘instrument of peace’.

An increase in business has also been tipped as a vehicle of peace by 67 per cent Pakistanis and 69 per cent Indians, the survey said. Among other steps needed to promote peace, 32 per cent Pakistanis pinned hopes on sports, 28 per cent on business, 22 per cent on tourism, 20 per cent on travel for health treatment and 13 per cent each on culture and higher education. The data from the Indian side regarding this questionnaire was not available.

For 51 per cent of Pakistanis, business can help bring peace, while 46 and 45 per cent of respondents said that it can also be done through sports and tourism respectively.

AMAN KI ASHA: The first of its kind peace drive ‘Aman Ki Asha’ was seen by a vast majority as articulating the aspirations of the people. Around 87 per cent Pakistanis and 74 per cent Indians were of the view that this sustained campaign ‘developed tremendous awareness about the Indo-Pak relationship’. Around 85 per cent Pakistanis and 61 per cent Indians said Aman Ki Asha communicated ‘peoples’ desire for peace to their governments, while 80 per cent Pakistanis and 86 per cent Indians said it ‘helped bring the people of the two countries together’.

The Jang Group and The Times of India have held a series of events over the last 12 months that involved a broad section of people, including students, intellectuals, artists, businessmen, doctors, information technology experts and ordinary citizens in an attempt to boost people-to-people ties.

In Pakistan, the recall of the ‘Aman Ki Asha’ campaign has been around an impressive 92 per cent. Shahrukh Hasan, Group Managing Director of the Jang Group, said this media-led civil society movement had made a huge contribution for peace at a time when tensions remained high between the two countries.

“The survey results should lay to rest any misgivings or apprehensions people may have had about the objectives or chances of success of the campaign,” he said. “The survey results show that Aman Ki Asha has brought about a sea change in perceptions in India about Pakistan. Every negative perception has decreased and every positive perception has improved. The Jang Group feels vindicated and is delighted that we have helped put across Pakistan’s point of view through honest dialogue, seminars, people-to-people contacts and cultural events.”

According to the survey, the terror perception in India about Pakistan is down to 42 per cent from 75 a year ago, of bomb threats to 29 per cent from 54 and awareness about the Kashmir dispute rising to 17 per cent from a mere four per cent. Hasan hoped that the Pakistani and Indian governments would continue to facilitate the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign and take advantage of the access to the hearts and minds of the people of the two countries that the Jang Group and the Times of India provided.

Pakistan Police Officers to be Arrested Over Death of Benazir Bhutto

By Delacn Walsh for The Guardian

A Pakistani court has ordered the arrest of two senior police officers in connection with Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, reviving hopes for a breakthrough in Pakistan’s most pressing political mystery.

An anti-terrorism court ordered the arrest of Rawalpindi’s former police chief, Saud Aziz, and his deputy Khurram Shahzad, who ordered the crime scene to be washed down less than two hours after the killing, destroying critical evidence.

“They were responsible for Bhutto’s security,” said special investigator Chaudhry Zulfiqar. “They ordered the crime scene to be hosed down despite resistance from other officials.”

A strongly-worded UN report into Bhutto’s death last April said the decision to wash the crime scene did “irreparable damage” to the subsequent investigation. Investigators speculated that Aziz had been influenced by powerful military intelligence agencies.

Aziz and Khurram, who are now retired from the police, could not be contacted today. They are due to be formally charged on 11 December along with five men already in custody.

The warrants are the latest twist in a torturously slow police investigation. Three years after Bhutto was killed in a suicide blast as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007, Pakistanis have little idea of who was behind her death.

Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, initially blamed Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but officials from Bhutto’s party, the PPP, have said that other forces, possibly including elements of Pakistan’s powerful military, played a role in her death.

Bhutto’s widower, President Asif Zardari, has vowed to unveil her killers, but made little progress in an investigation bogged down by controversy, recrimination and conspiracy theories – one popular rumour in Pakistan has it that Zardari himself was responsible.

The three-man UN investigation into the killing, headed by Chilean diplomat Heraldo Muñoz, published its report last April in an effort to bring some clarity. It dismissed the allegations against Zardari and blamed Musharraf for failing to protect Bhutto, while accusing police and intelligence officials of hampering the investigation into her death.

The UN team said that Aziz stalled the investigation for two days after Bhutto’s death, deliberately prevented a postmortem on her body, and gave the order to sanitise the crime scene just 100 minutes after Bhutto’s death. As a result crucial DNA evidence was lost and investigators gathered just 23 pieces of evidence instead of the “thousands” that would be expected, Muñoz’s team noted.

The UN focused on the actions of Aziz, who witnesses said was “constantly talking on his mobile phone” as doctors scrambled to save Bhutto’s life in a Rawalpindi hospital.

The UN received “credible information” that the Pakistani intelligence agencies had intervened. But Aziz refused to say who he spoke with, and tried to blame the failure to carry out an autopsy on Zardari – something that was “highly improper”, the UN said. “It suggests a preconceived effort to prevent a thorough examination of Ms Bhutto’s remains.”

The strongly-worded report represented a watershed in moribund efforts to solve the mystery of Bhutto’s death – Pakistan’s greatest political trauma since the dictator General Zia-ul-Haq died in mysterious circumstances in 1988. But it fell short of identifying those behind her death, and government efforts to advance the probe has since floundered.

Bhutto’s own party has been split by divisions. Last week Zardari suspended the membership of Naheed Khan, Bhutto’s confidante, following simmering tensions that included criticism of his failure to find Bhutto’s killers. Critics have also raised questions about the role of Rehman Malik, Bhutto’s security chief and now Pakistan’s interior minister.

The main suspect in custody remains a teenager from the tribal belt accused of helping the Bhutto assassins. His case, and those of the police officers, will be heard in camera at Adiala jail outside Rawalpindi.

But the government has not probed the role of the other parties mentioned in the UN report – former president Pervez Musharraf, currently in exile in London, and the intelligence services that are considered beyond the control of the civilian authorities.

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