Monday, December 10, 2012

Pakistan should legitimize Kashmiris as third party

Stating that there is a notion across the world that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Tuesday said the amalgam will urge Pakistan for “legal sanctity” for role of Kashmiris’ as a third party in the settlement of Kashmir issue so that it is recognized as a tripartite issue at the global level.

Addressing the second phase of the feedback session with civil society members of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts at Hurriyat headquarters here, Mirwaiz said that ahead of their Pakistan visit, the Hurriyat leadership  wanted to listen to intellectuals, traders, civil society activists and other sections of the society so that constructive suggestions could crop up.

“These suggestions will help us frame good policies,” the Hurriyat (M) Chairman said at the outset of the session. “Keeping in view the situation at the world level and at the sub-continental level, an impression continues to remain in place that Kashmir is a bilateral issue. This is happening despite the fact that Kashmiris have offered countless sacrifices,” Mirwaiz said. “We have been of the belief that Kashmir is a tripartite issue with people of Kashmir as its real stakeholders. But the fact remains that there is no legal sanctity to the people being the main party to the issue.”

The Hurriyat (M) Chairman said the amalgam will work out a “legal sanctity” with the Pakistan leadership so that the notion of Kashmir being a bilateral issue ends. “The move will also help give Kashmiri people a right to speak and also project Kashmir as a tripartite issue,” he said.

He said Kashmir issue has many dimensions like social, economic and political. “Besides talking about the resolution of Kashmir issue, we need to talk about the plundering of our water resources, power and other things,” Mirwaiz said. He also said it was not like that the Hurriyat (M) leadership would bring resolution from Pakistan. “But a beginning is must. Many confusions will get cleared during our visit,” he said.

During the feedback session, many participants highlighted the historic perspective of the Kashmir issue as to how the erstwhile princely State of Jammu and Kashmir was sold by the British ‘and then by Maharaja Hari Singh.’ “This State had been sold for peanuts first and then through accords. We must see where do we stand and where we have to go,” said a participant from Kupwara district. “Hurriyat must devise a strategy to clear the confusion. We as a nation are totally confused as to where from we have to start. We have offered priceless sacrifices over the past 65 years. There is a need for a vision and direction,” he said.

Another elderly participant from the apple town of Sopore said Pakistan had been claiming Kashmir as its “jugular vein” and at the same time India maintains “Kashmir is its integral part.” “The fact remains that Kashmir remains sandwiched between the two countries. But we haven’t lost hope and believe a day will come soon when we will achieve our goal,” he said.

Many young participants stressed that Hurriyat leadership should keep the sacrifices of people in mind before meeting the Pakistan leadership.

“Keep in mind that our daughters and mothers lost chastity for Kashmir solution. Our youth spilled hot blood for the cause,” said a youth from Baramulla. He was seconded by another from Sopore, who further added, “Hurriyat leaders should seek suggestions and advice from the family members of martyrs as well before leaving for Pakistan.”

Mirwaiz welcomed the suggestions put forth by the participants and said the feedback sessions would continue and the next meeting will be held with the people from South Kashmir. Many senior Hurriyat (M) leaders were present in the session which included Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Gani Lone, Shahid-ul-Islam, Syed Saleem Geelani and Zaffar Akbar Bhat.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Civil society in Pakistan holds key to peaceful future

Less than two years after the Pakistani military drew down its counter-insurgency operations in the picturesque Swat valley, Pakistan’s frontier region is once again being rocked by suicide attacks and targeted killings. While the country may appear to be locked in an entrenched conflict, Pakistan’s civil society could hold the key for a sustainable, peaceful future.

The World Organization for Resource Development and Education (WORDE), a non-profit, educational organisation aiming to enhaance communication and understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, recently completed a year-long study to understand the capacity of Pakistan’s civil society for resolving conflict within its borders. The WORDE team travelled to over 35 cities and villages – from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to interior Sindh – to interview over 100 organisations countering radical narratives and fostering social harmony.

Our research indicates that Pakistan’s civil society has the capacity to promote peace and regional stability through five powerful mechanisms.

First, activists are leading bold public awareness initiatives to educate the population about the threat of radicalisation. Public rallies, such as “Save Pakistan Conventions”, have galvanised the population and forged unity against terrorism. In 2009, for example, conservative Muslim parties teamed up with the Christian Progressive Movement of Pakistan to hold a 25,000-man National Flag Day march in Islamabad to demonstrate national solidarity against violent extremism.

Following examples from the Arab Spring, Pakistani youth are also using new media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to promote peace – often at great personal risk. Just last month, Malala Yousafzai, a female teenage blogger and girls’ education activist, was shot by militants in the Swat valley for speaking out against the Taliban.

Second, concerted efforts are underway across the country to empower youth with alternatives to militancy. For example, schools such as the Dar ul Uloom Okara in Southern Punjab organise intensive two-week seminars on Qur’anic principles of peace and conflict resolution. Others, like the Dar ul Uloom Bhera, conduct individually tailored interventions for at-risk youth that refute the idea of violence in the name of Islam. Where possible, large schools are also offering advanced courses in English, sciences, mathematics and vocational training to prepare students for professional careers after graduation.

Third, public statements are also a powerful mechanism to counter violent ideologies. Since 9/11, dozens of fatwas, or non-binding opinions by Islamic scholars, in Urdu and local languages have been issued to denounce terrorism at the theological level. Given the high number of targeted killings in Pakistan, however, many scholars are hesitant to address the issue of extremism directly. Instead, they often embed their anti-terror messages within speeches on broader social issues.

Fourth, religious scholars are organising public lectures and debates to deconstruct radical interpretations of Islam using the Qur’an, stories of the Prophets and historical examples. In regions like southern Punjab, where robust civil society networks exist, public debates and lectures are held on a weekly basis. Those featuring prominent speakers such as Syed Arshad Kazmi are televised or posted on YouTube.

Fifth, Pakistani faith-based organisations are using their social networks to distribute humanitarian assistance to impoverished communities at risk of militancy. For example, the Jamia Subhaniyya Rizvia, a school bordering the tribal regions, recently teamed up with the military and social welfare organisations to distribute emergency kits and over 30 tons of goods to internally displaced peoples in terrorism-affected regions.

In short, there are many examples of Pakistani civil society’s constructive efforts to create change, and Pakistan’s future hinges on replicating and expanding these efforts across the country. However, security and a lack of funding and resources prevent activists from creating a sustained national movement.

Today, with the public outcry following the attack on Malala Yousafzai and other peace activists, the international community – especially the Pakistani diaspora – has been presented with a window of opportunity to provide training in capacity-building, technical assistance and material support to strengthen Pakistan’s civil society.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Farewell reception for Italian envoy

One of the final farewell parties for the Defence Attache of Italy, Col. Gaetano di Lorenzo was hosted by the ‘new’ ambassador of Italy, Adriano Chiodi Cianfarani and attended by a few guests, each representing a different section of Pakistani society — business; armed forces and civil society.

This made for a cosy affair — although it was a formal one — where any discussion involved all the guests — except of course during the sit down dinner where people speak to those nearest to them! The new Italian Defence Attache Lt. Col. Emilio Sen was also present.

The host decided to make his farewell speech before the delicious Italian meal was served. He thanked his guests for accepting his invitation and said that in the couple of months or so since he had been here he had learned a lot from his guest of honour about ‘how things worked’ in Pakistan. He went on to speak of the good work that had been carried out by the officer in promoting bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in the collaboration between the armed forces and how this would go a long way to strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist. He also said a few words about the cooperation in business which is going in the right direction; announced the visit of high level officials in the near future and concluded by welcoming Lt Col Sen and hoping he would have a successful tenure and wishing Col Lorenzo a successful career and happy life in the future.

In his response the guest of honour — who has been very popular both with his colleagues and civilians from all walks of life — thanked the ambassador for his gesture of hosting a dinner in his honour and said he was sad to leave Pakistan but happy that he had made many good friends and been successful in accomplishing some major goals which he had set for himself. He thanked his close friends who were present for their friendship and hospitality, saying a few words about each of them and their connection with Italy; wished his successor a happy and successful tenure; said he hoped to visit Pakistan whenever the opportunity arose and concluded by raising a toast to the friendship between Pakistan and Italy.

Maria Sultan spoke on behalf of the Pakistanis, thanking the ambassador for his invitation and voiced words of praise for the guest of honour who had done much to strengthen ties between the two friendly countries. She also welcomed Lt. Col. Sen and concluded with the hope that Pakistan-Italy ties would continue for the mutual benefit of both countries.

Here it is pertinent to mention that the Italian Defence office initiated an ongoing health project in Khuspur a few years ago for the benefit of the local community, where free of cost medical facilities are provided with funds raised by them with help from some members of the business community involved in bilateral co-operation.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Secrets of the deep: How the mass of organisms living in undersea volcanoes and rocks could out-weigh all of the animals on the surface

Scientists say a third of Earth's organisms live in our planet's rocks and sediments - and the amount could even be greater than what we find on the surface.

This week, microbiologist James Holden of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst along with colleagues shone a light on this dark work, reporting on the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes.
Just as biologists studied the habitats and life requirements of giraffes and penguins when they were new to science, Holden says, 'for the first time we're studying these subsurface microorganisms, defining their habitat requirements and determining how they differ among species.'

A hydrothermal vent field at Axial Volcano seen through the porthole of the submersible Alvin
A hydrothermal vent field at Axial Volcano seen through the porthole of the submersible Alvin
The submersible Alvin extends its mechanical arm to a high-temperature black smoker at Endeavor Segment
The submersible Alvin extends its mechanical arm to a high-temperature black smoker at Endeavor Segment
'Evidence has built that there's an incredible amount of biomass in the Earth's subsurface, in the crust and marine sediments, perhaps as much as all the plants and animals on the surface,' says Holden.

'We're interested in the microbes in the deep rock, and the best place to study them is at hydrothermal vents at undersea volcanoes. Warm water there brings the nutrient and energy sources these microbes need.'

The result will advance scientists' comprehension of biogeochemical cycles in the deep ocean, he and co-authors believe.

'Studies such as this add greatly to our understanding of microbial processes in the still poorly-known deep biosphere,' said David Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.
The project also addresses such questions as what metabolic processes may have looked like on Earth three billion years ago, and what alien microbial life might look like on other planets.

Because the study involves methanogens - microbes that inhale hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methane as waste - it may also shed light on natural gas formation on Earth.

One major goal was to test results of predictive computer models and to establish the first environmental hydrogen threshold for hyperthermophilic (super-heat-loving), methanogenic (methane-producing) microbes in hydrothermal vent fluids.
A smoking hydrothermal sulfide spire at Endeavor Segment, Juan de Fuca Ridge in the Pacific Ocean
Life at the bottom of the ocean: A smoking hydrothermal sulfide spire at Endeavor Segment, Juan de Fuca Ridge in the Pacific Ocean

'Models have predicted the 'habitability' of the rocky environments we're most interested in, but we wanted to ground-truth these models and refine them,' Holden says.

In a two-liter bioreactor at UMass Amherst where the scientists could control hydrogen levels, they grew pure cultures of hyperthermophilic methanogens from their study site alongside a commercially available hyperthermophilic methanogen species.
The researchers found that growth measurements for the organisms were about the same. All grew at the same rate when given equal amounts of hydrogen and had the same minimum growth requirements.

Holden and Helene Ver Eecke at UMass Amherst used culturing techniques to look for organisms in nature and then study their growth in the lab.

Co-investigators Julie Huber at the Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod provided molecular analyses of the microbes, while David Butterfield and Marvin Lilley at the University of Washington contributed geochemical fluid analyses.
Using the research submarine Alvin, they collected samples of hydrothermal fluids flowing from black smokers up to 350 degrees C (662 degrees F), and from ocean floor cracks with lower temperatures.

Samples were taken from Axial Volcano and the Endeavour Segment, both long-term observatory sites along an undersea mountain range about 200 miles off the coast of Washington and Oregon and more than a mile below the ocean's surface.
'We used specialised sampling instruments to measure both the chemical and microbial composition of hydrothermal fluids,' says Butterfield.

'This was an effort to understand the biological and chemical factors that determine microbial community structure and growth rates.'

A happy twist awaited the researchers as they pieced together a picture of how the methanogens live and work.

At the low-hydrogen Endeavour site, they found that a few hyperthermophilic methanogens eke out a living by feeding on the hydrogen waste produced by other hyperthermophiles.

'This was extremely exciting,' says Holden. 'We've described a methanogen ecosystem that includes a symbiotic relationship between microbes.'

Monday, July 9, 2012

Killing the innocent is unacceptable in Islam

If anyone killed a person – unless it is for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. (Q5:32).
THIS expression is very instructive from the glorious Quran, which some misguided element in the country has jettisoned to pursue their devilish ideology that does not exist in Al- Islam.

The provocative killing of innocent souls, whatsoever, must be condemned by all, if we must live in this world in tandem with the teaching and practice of our religious belief that says that we must love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Anybody who feels that injustices have been perpetrated against him or her should find a civilised way of seeking redress in a competent court of law.

Nobody in this world has a monopoly of violence but men of ideas and responsibility have to exercise restraint not to aggravate the existing bestiality that we are witnessing in the Northern part of the country based on the fact that they do not want to rock the boat of a country that has potentials to be one of the best economies in the world.

The fact has to be reiterated to my brothers in this religion of Al Islam that we are allowing criminals to put us in defence on what our religion do not tolerate and we have to speak out en mass to condemn this callous activity of a tiny segment of the society. In the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that if there is ill in the society, if you cannot speak out to condemn it, use your hands and heart to correct it. There is no justification whatsoever for anybody to attack places of worship, not to talk of killing human souls. The scripture is clear of those who commit suicide and those who kill fellow human beings that they will never find the favour of the Almighty in the hereafter. Lack of correct education in our religion has created a room for all sorts of characters to indoctrinate and imbue worshippers with lies and fallacy which cannot be substantiated in the religion of Al Islam.

We should not allow 00.2 per cent of the population to gang us and create fear and anxiety in our system, which made us to be trembling in our abode. We have to stand up and say to their face that they are creating mischief in the country and they are not Muslims as prescribed by the glorious Quran 2:256 “let there be no compulsion in religion; truly the right has become clearly distinct from error …. And Allah is hearing, knowing” The effective application of wisdom, persuasive preaching and logical argumentation are scripturally prescribed rules of engagement and proselytisation (Da’wah) in Islam.

Imams in all mosques must continue to emphasise the sanctity of life as prescribed by the glorious Quran 5:32 and relate the story of Prophet Muhammad’s support to Christians during his time by vacating the mosque for them to worship (Ibn e Saad and Ibn Hisham). Islam encourages its adherents to strive for the enthronement of goodness and repulsion of evil in every circumstances and accommodate plurality of creeds, ideologies and philosophies, which in itself is a manifestation of divine will as expressed in Quran 10:99 “ And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?”

The cowardly actions have put many innocent families in grief and paralysed human activities in some part of the country. This grievous destruction will continue to hurt this part of the country in future. Thousands have been rendered jobless because of their uninformed mind and madness, which cannot be substantiated in the scripture and teaching of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

I now agree with the analysis of experts that poverty breeds all sorts of behaviour, which is now manifesting in the society. The blame of this problem lies with past and present leaders of our country,  particularly Northern leaders, who had refused to encourage Western education alongside Islamic education, which many Muslims have embraced to put their wards in comfortable positions to reason logically and not to be swayed by  illiterate scholars parading themselves under the guise of salvation from both the hypocritical evangelical Christian clerics and lazy Mallams, who continue to ignore the fact  that religion is a private matter.

We have neglected history to our peril and continue to make the same mistakes not to allow our children to study history of religion development, could have might has placed them in good stead to know that worship is for the development of the society, and not the precarious evocation of sentiment to swell the number of members of a particular religion. The act of congregating was evolved to create companionship and co-operation for the mutual development, not the present penchant for wealth and material accumulation we are witnessing today.

This had led members of the society to be selfish, self centered and greedy, accumulating wealth the of the  commonwealth to the detriment of the have-nots. We have neglected the basic things of the society to pursue mundane things. We forget that it is the responsibility of the whole society to train and inculcate norms and values in the younger ones, so that they will be able to be conform to the cause of the society.

We have allowed religious activities to kill our creativity and ideas that would have been beneficial to the whole society. Instead of critical thinking to solve societal problems, we pursue spiritual solutions to individual problems by congregating in churches and mosques 18 hours of the day. How do we realise that things are going wrong within our vicinity?

We have to examine the way we worship God and do evangelism in order to find time to look critically at our way of life and how to improve productive sector that will enable us create jobs and wealth for the benefit of all. We must sieve sentiments in all ramifications from our interaction and decision making for the progress of the country.