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PAKISTAN

India denies visas to Pakistani journalists intending to cover Kartarpur moot

Groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan last year was covered by more than 30 Indian journalists

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Pakistan’s Foreign Office has expressed disappointment at the Indian government’s decision to not issue visas to Pakistani journalists to cover tomorrow’s meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor.

A Pakistani delegation will visit India on March 14 (Thursday). Indian and Pakistani officials will meet at Attari, near Amritsar, according to Indian media. This will be followed by a visit to Islamabad of an Indian delegation on March 28.

Earlier in January, Pakistan had shared its draft of the proposed agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor with India and called for initiation of negotiations for its finalisation. In February, after a bit of wrangling over the venue of the talks, the two countries had agreed in principle on reciprocal visits of officials for negotiating and finalising the agreement.

“Regrettable that India has not given visas to Pakistani journalists for the Kartarpur meeting tomorrow,” said Dr Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday via Twitter.

He added: “Hope the #PakKartarpurSpirit and meeting tomorrow will bring a change for the better for people of both countries.”

In another tweet, Dr Faisal pointed out that the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan last year was covered by more than 30 Indian journalists.

“They also met Prime Minister Imran Khan and were hosted by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi for a dinner during their stay,”he added.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed its commitment to continuing negotiations on proposed Kartarpur Corridor agreement and announced that the two neighbouring countries would exchange visits by their respective delegations.

The announcement came a week after the Indian Air Force (IAF) violated Pakistani airspace following the Feb 14 attack targeting Indian security forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area.

Two intruding IAF jets were later downed by Pakistan and a pilot was captured only to be released as a unilateral goodwill gesture.

Amidst rhetoric by Indian officials in the aftermath of the attack, Pakistan had called back its high commissioner in India for consultations on Feb 18. The high commissioner returned to India last week as tensions began to defuse after intervention by influential world capitals.

KARTARPUR CORRIDOR

The groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor in Pakistan was performed last year on Nov 28. Indian government had sent two cabinet ministers — Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Shri Hardeep Singh — to participate in the ceremony.

In January, Pakistan had shared its draft of Kartarpur Corridor Accord with India and invited its delegation for a visit for negotiating the document, which would govern operations of the corridor meant to provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib (Narowal district). The corridor is planned to be opened for Sikh pilgrims this year in commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

India, however, instead of accepting the proposal on that occasion, insisted on hosting the meeting and asked Pakistani officials to visit Delhi either on Feb 26 or March 7. Although the counter-proposals from Islamabad and Delhi had given the impression of a sort of standoff on the issue, Islamabad had, instead of reacting to the position taken by India in response to its original suggestion, vowed to “take the process forward”.

“We welcome the visit of Pakistan team to discuss and finalise modalities for facilitating visit of pilgrims through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor to India. Follow up meeting can be held in Pakistan, as required,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had tweeted on Feb 7, after the March meeting was finalised by the two sides.

OPINION

Hunza Valley: A case of educational enlightenment

Educational initiatives that have enlightened Hunza’s local communities are exemplary for others

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The Hunza Valley in Pakistan is known for its breathtaking beauty, lofty mountains, lakes, historical forts and fruit orchards. But equally enthralling are the educational initiatives that have enlightened Hunza’s local communities and are exemplary for others.

Hunza is a mountainous valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. Situated in the extreme northern part of the country, Hunza borders with the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan and the Xinjiang region of China. Hunza was an independent principality for more than 900 years, until the British gained control of it and the neighbouring valley of Nagar between 1889 and 1891 through a military conquest. The former princely state survived until 1974, when it was finally dissolved by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The centuries old history of the area is reflected in its rich cultural heritage and ethnic diversity. With mass migrations, conflicts and resettling of tribes, people of the region joyfully recount their historical traditions. They are also famous for the longevity of their lives.

But another trait which makes the people of Hunza distinct from the rest of the country, is its high literacy rate. While the literacy rate of the country is slightly above 50 percent, which in many rural areas is even lesser, the literacy rate in Hunza is believed to be nearly 80 percent, with some claiming it to be even more than 90 percent. What is the reason that a far flung, remote area perched at the top of the highest mountainous regions of the continent has been so successful in educating its people?

The evolution of education in Hunza valley was initiated in the year 1912 when the government of British India founded a primary school in Hunza state. But a major role has been played by the Ismaili Muslims, who make up nearly 90 percent of Hunza’s population.

In 1946, seventeen Diamond Jubilee Schools were established under the guidance and funding provided by Aga Khan III, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims. Aga Khan Education Service played an important role in improving quality of education by arranging teachers training programs. Aga Khan Academies opened in Hunza which were later upgraded to Aga Khan Higher Secondary School for girls, with well trained teachers qualified from foreign universities. Locals also established community schools in late 1990s. Karakoram International University and its campus in Hunza provides quality education to students and degrees with scope of local and international markets, e.g. Tourism and Management.

Some unique initiatives include Al-Amyn Model School and Hassegawa Memorial Public School which are funded by Japan. These schools help re-establish the broken link between school and home. Here parents and grandparents are invited to share their wisdom with the younger generation. Parents come to know that their knowledge is not obsolete and that the younger generation can benefit from it.

Public schools are also opened by the Government of Pakistan which play a vital role in providing quality education to both boys and girls,
Being educated not only means to know how to read, write, think, or even being able to conjure new ideas, but having a cultured sense of oneself and the surrounding. In this sense, apart from being educated, the minds of people in Hunza are liberated from dogmas, and they encourage gender equality and critical thinking, which has led to the development of its pluralistic society.

Women have become an integral part of the local economy, including those who weave Hunza’s famous handicrafts. Both girls and boys study music in music schools established by USAID and Aga Khan Cultural and Support Program (AKCSP).

The world famous female mountaineer Samina Baig, international cricket player Diana Baig, female atheletes, models and singers are a depiction of gender equality and freedom from stereotypes. Although some of the remote mountainous regions of northern and northwestern Pakistan have been scarred by militant fundamentalism and terrorism, Hunza has largely avoided such associations, and the crime rate is extremely low.

Perhaps, this is why renowned international publications Washington Post and Foreign Policy Magazine have termed Hunza as a “success story for moderate Islam…. Once a hard Himalayan town where resident barely had enough food, Karimabad, in the Hunza Valley, is now one of Pakistan’s most idyllic spots and has become an oasis of tolerance, security, and good schools.”

Thus, an educational enlightenment including cultural, moral, social and economic progress of the community as well as the inculcation of deep respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, has helped eliminate poverty, and the promotion and implementation of secular pluralism and the advancement of the status of women in Hunza Valley.

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OPINION

‘Victim’ or ‘survivor’- rebuilding narrative of abuse

Calling the individual a ‘sexual abuse survivor’ gives more hope to the wronged

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Sexual assault is an act of extreme cruelty and injustice that causes insurmountable levels of trauma on the inflicted individual. When a forcible act of abusing someone sexually takes place, the experience is one that even the sufferer fails to understand or give words to. The trauma leaves the one abused feeling used, deceived and damaged. The person then begins to see the world with a tinted lens, which casts a shadow of darkness over everything.

A reported 94 per cent of such women experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) within two weeks after the assault. Among them, 30 per cent continue to experience PTSD symptoms nine months after the incident. This disorder is characterised by intrusive, distressing flashbacks from the event, emotional numbness, social avoidance, and persistent negative beliefs about one’s self or others. It is most often accompanied by depression, or anxiety, that further cause distress to their mental, emotional, and physical state.

Sexual assault and rape is attached with a stigma all over the world. A stigma is defined as ‘a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person’ and one regarding rape and sexual assault makes the situation worse for someone who is already suffering. Removing this stigma is a step towards improvement, creating a healthier environment for the sufferer to heal in, and easing his or her hardships.

The reaction of the society in this regard is important, but the media plays a vital role in building the narrative for issues and events that happen in the country. It has the power to shape how a rape incident is perceived, through the words used in its stories and has the responsibility to use this power correctly.

When a rape case is reported, the news usually add a headline with the words ‘Rape Victim’ along with images depicting helplessness, vulnerability and hopelessness. Another image often used is that of masculine hands covering the female’s mouth to hush her up, depicting silence and weakness.

A point to ponder is, what message these images give across? The issue becomes framed in a way that the victims feel further stigmatised from the society, when all they need is healing. It is common for their images to go viral on social media, which informs the public and also gains sympathy and support for them. However, the victims of abuse become the core focus of the issue, rather than the perpetrator or abuser who should have been held under the spotlight for the world to see. Calling someone a victim not only reinforces his or her victimhood but also draws complete attention towards the sufferer, garnering increased interest about the personal details of the victim. The victim becomes the subject of the entire case.

Dating back to the 1970, books like “I Never Told Anyone” and “The Courage to Heal” collecting personal narratives of women who had experienced incest and child sexual abuse, were the first to pointedly use the word ‘survivor’, replacing ‘victim’ in an attempt to emphasise women’s resourcefulness rather than their helplessness and the decisions they had made that allowed them to stay safe and sane.

Today, with the rise of the #MeToo movement, a discussion has stirred again, in which women are uniting, to be called ‘survivors’, not ‘victims’ of abuse.

When the media calls a person who is raped a ‘victim’, it correctly defines him or her “as a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action” as defined by Oxford. But for the person who was subjected to such a heinous crime, the word ‘victim’ has more connotations. The word has a psychological impact on the person who was abused and traumatised.

While it is important to acknowledge the suffering and pain of the ‘victim’ and using the term does that, it also further reinforces the victim as ‘hopeless’ in society’s eyes and further reinforces all the stigmas attached to rape, making them feel more isolated.

The term ‘victim’ limits the scope for improvement or healing, because using this term is like taking a pen and writing the end of their story, with nothing left to hope for.

For these reasons, calling the individual a ‘rape survivor’ or a ‘sexual abuse survivor’ gives more hope to the wronged. The ‘victim’ is now a ‘survivor’- erasing the societies’ stigma towards the future, offering hope and encouragement.

In an article ‘Survivor vs Victim: The Power of Language’ published last year, Jessica Tappana, a therapist and co-founder of counselling website in Columbia writes, “When I use the term survivor, I feel that it leaves the door more open for possibility. Even if my client isn’t thriving right this moment, I still encourage them to claim the title of ‘survivor’ as we begin to walk down the path of healing.”

In Pakistan, the particular stigma attached to rape is regarding the shame it brings to the individual and her family. It is something to hide from the world, to live with and carry this shame for the rest of life. Calling the victim a survivor would turn the ‘shameful’ incident into an event that this person ‘survived’ implying that they still have prospects for a better future.

Sexually abused women are not irrevocably damaged in soul and body, and if they do not acknowledge this, they are in denial of their strength. We can equip them with that courage by not letting their abuse define them.

We can start by calling them ‘survivors’, undefeated and brave; so that instead of bowing down their heads in shame, they can keep their chin up, look towards a positive future, and proudly say, “I am a survivor.”

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PAKISTAN

Six Pakistanis were among 49 killed in New Zealand mosque massacre

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Out of 49 people who were killed in mass shootings in New Zealand’s Christchurch on Friday, at least six belonged to Pakistan, Foreign Office (FO) Spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Saturday.

“Sohail Shahid, Syed Jahandad Ali, Syed Areeb Ahmed, Mahboob Haroon, Naeem Rashid and his son, Talha Naeem, have been pronounced dead by the authorities,” Dr Faisal said in a tweet.
On Friday, at least four Pakistani nationals were reportedly injured and five others had gone missing after violent gun attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. Three Pakistani however still remain missing and a search for them is underway.

The FO confirmed the death of six Pakistanis shortly after a list was issued earlier on Saturday. The list included: Zeeshan Raza; father of Zeeshan Raza; mother of Zeeshan Raza; Haroon Mahmood, son of Shahid Mehmood; Sohail Shahid, son of Muhammad Shabbir; Syed Areeb Ahmed, son of Ayaz Ahmed; Syed Jahanand Ali Talha Naeem; Naeem Rashid.

Naeem Rashid and his son Talha Naeem tried to intercept the shooter, but they were shot dead in their attempt. Naeem and Talha, who hailed from Abbottabad, were injured as they attempted to overpower the attacker and later succumbed to their injuries.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi also spoke to the media about the terror attack on Saturday.

“We are waiting for identification of [missing] Pakistanis. Obviously I’m getting more worried with time as we have not been able to contact them [the missing Pakistanis] and I fear that they might be on the list of martyrs. But nothing has been communicated to us officially yet and to say anything before an official confirmation will be speculation,” he said while condemning the attack in strong words.

TERRORIST CHARGED WITH MURDER

Meanwhile, a right-wing extremist who filmed himself on a shooting rampage flashed a white power gesture as he appeared in a Christchurch court on Saturday and was charged with murder.
Australian-born 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant stood in the dock wearing handcuffs and a white prison smock, as the judge read a single murder charge against him. A raft of further charges is expected.

The former fitness instructor and self-professed fascist occasionally turned to look at media present in court during the brief hearing that the public were excluded from for security reasons.
Flanked by armed police he made an upside-down “okay” signal, a symbol used by white power groups across the globe. He did not request bail and was taken into custody until his next court appearance which is scheduled for April 5.

A short distance from the court, 39 people were being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds and other injuries inflicted in the massacre.
The wounded included a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, who was in critical condition.

‘MUSLIMS STILL LOVE THIS COUNTRY’

In a separate development, an imam who was leading prayers at one of the mosques said the Muslim community’s love for New Zealand would not be shaken by the massacre, reported The Telegraph.

“We still love this country,” said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, imam of Linwood Mosque, vowing that extremists would “never ever touch our confidence”.

Halim gave a harrowing account of the moment during Friday prayers when gunshots rang out in the mosque, replacing peaceful reflection with screaming, bloodshed and death.

“Everyone laid down on the floor, and some women started crying, some people died immediately,” he said.

But, he said, New Zealand Muslims still felt at home in the south Pacific nation.

“My children live here” he said, adding, “we are happy”.

He said the majority of New Zealanders “are very keen to support all of us, to give us full solidarity”, describing how strangers exchanged hugs with him on Saturday.

“They start to… give me big hug, and give me more solidarity. This is something very important.”

At least 49 people were killed and 20 injured in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday when at least one gunman opened fire on worshippers in two separate mosques.

The attack, which came around the time people were attending the mosques for Friday prayers, was the deadliest in the western nation’s history.

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