Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pakistan's Sikh Legacy - Amardeep uses Pluralistic Language

I was moved by the language of this article, it is reconciliatory and bridge building in nature. I loved the description where he let the "mitti" slip from his hand for what it would remind him of, it went against his sentiments of watan ki mitti, but he did the right thing to let it go.

What happened during partition was sad. What is shameful is, those who endured the pain on all sides, continue to pass on that hatred to their offspring, do they really want to dump their misery onto their children? If we are 'sincere', I mean 'sincere' peace makers, we should give hope to the next generation and not mess them up with our problems.

When I read an occasional stray note from a Indian or a Pakistani about their hate for the other, it saddens me.  If they don't claim to be religious, it is fine, but when they call themselves Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs, they are betraying their own religion.  None of the religions teach you to hate, but the politicians and guardians of religions and a few hateful men mess up the lives of future generations.

The bottom line is we have to leave a better world for our kids, we have learn to understand the past but build the future where they can spend their time in finding means to enjoy rather than spend their time in ill-will towards the other.


I am organizing an interfaith conference in Karachi, if you have an interest to join or to speak, the speech will be checked by me before hand, it has to build bridges.  You can text me at (214) 325-1916 – The event will be in September, and we have every faith except Buddhism is represented, we are looking for Buddhist, connect us with on, particularly a Pakistani Buddhist, but any Buddhist for that matter. 

This is a good piece worth reading

Mike Ghouse
All about me at 

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Pakistan's Sikh Legacy -  

Courtesy - Times of India 

“If you could visit any place in Pakistan, where would you go?” asks Amardeep Singh whenever he gives a talk to introduce his recently published travelogue Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan.
The question, aimed primarily at Sikh members of the audience, invariably elicits two answers: Sikh holy places. Their ancestral village.
It was the same in Boston on June 18, 2016 at the E-5 Center where Amardeep Singh gave his 42nd such talk. He understands the response all too well. After all, he too once had the same “myopic” reasons, as he says, for wanting to go to Pakistan, which he considers his “homeland”, being the land of his ancestors and also where Sikhdom’s holiest sites are located, like Nanankana Sahib, birth place of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru.
But when Singh did finally fulfill his dream to visit the country in October 2014, he had an epiphany halfway through his solitary trip that changed the meaning of his travels. It also changed the course of his life. He realised that reducing Pakistan to religion was doing a disservice to the country, its people and the larger cause of humanity.
The process may have begun earlier, when Singh applied for a visa at the Pakistan embassy in Singapore, where he has lived for the past 16 years. When the visa officer handed him back his passport, Singh refused to take it.
“I am going to my homeland for the first time,” said Singh, who was born in Gorakhpur, India, in 1966. “And you want to restrict me to ten days?”
The officer laughed and said he would increase the visa duration to 30 days. Emboldened, Singh pushed further. He wanted a visa for the entire country, not just two or three cities, and he wanted it to include “Pakistan Administered Kashmir” – the term that he prefers to use rather than the loaded “Pakistan occupied Kashmir” or “Azad Kashmir”. He suggests using such neutral language, also for “Indian Administered Kashmir” in an attempt to convey an acceptance of the reality that Pakistan or India manage the region, plus “it allows us to balance and focus on the core message of the book”.
Singh is “deeply grateful” to the Pakistan government for granting him a 30-day, non-police reporting country (rather than city-specific) visa – facilities normally denied most Indian / and Indian-origin travellers and vice versa.
But perhaps the story of the metamorphosis of a corporate banker into a photographer/travel writer starts even earlier. Singh was never a “corporate junkie”, even while working with American Express first in Hong Kong and then Singapore as head of revenue management.
He undertook many solitary trekking holidays in remote, far flung areas in India, Tibet and other places throughout his 25-year banking career. Then there was his love for history and travel that led him to devour travelogues like British era explorers like William Mooncroft (1819) and Alexander Burns (1831), and later accounts like Alice Albania’s ‘Empires of the Indus’.
Those experiences — travel with no access to the outside world, reading historical accounts and travelogues, photography, writing — he feels, were “God’s way” of preparing him. The dots joined organically. The Pakistan ‘pilgrimage’ that he initially started with, his life’s pursuit, became not the culmination of a dream but the starting point of another journey powered by secular, universal ideals.
Historical traumas like the cataclysmic 1947 Partition of India with its ensuing bloodshed produces a first generation that doesn’t talk, observes Amardeep. The second is lost. The third, to which he belongs, goes in pursuit of the stories.
His father was born in Muzaffarabad, in the western-most frontier of the former princely state of Kashmir that both India and Pakistan lay claim to and which in turn claims independence. Amardeep turned up to try and find his roots in Pakistan in 2013 like a wanderer on a pilgrimage, carrying three pairs of clothes, his camera, and the contacts of a couple of Facebook friends. “A madman in love” is how one audience member describes him.
In Pakistan, Singh says that he met and connected with 14 Pakistanis who were on a similar pursuit, to discover their common heritage. And all of them were Muslim. Singh realized that the legacy that they shared could not be easily compartmentalised into “Muslim” or “Sikh”.
The “Sikh Empire” touted in the history narrated by the British colonists and their successors, was actually deeply secular. The distortion of history has meant other, more dangerous falsehoods being perpetrated, like the basis-less rumour that Sikhs converted the Badshahi mosque in Lahore into a stable for horses. On the contrary, Ranjit Singh in fact gave financial grants to the Badshahi Masjid.
In the pre-partition era, Sikhs had invested heavily in creating the Khalsa schools and colleges, which imparted excellent education to students of all faiths. Abandoned by the departed community, these today operate as Islamia schools and colleges.
He also came across many non turban-wearing followers of the Sikh Guru Nanak in Pakistan, all of Pashtun origin and from the Khyber area.
These realisations – about the secular or syncretic nature of what he had assumed was a “Sikh” heritage — pushed Singh beyond his original limited goal of taking a fistful of earth back from Muzaffarbad as a momento for his family. It stopped him in his tracks as he picked up some riverbank soil at the site of a bloody massacre of Sikhs soon after Partition.
The place is known as “Domel”, where the Jhelum River meets the Neelum River. (“We even ascribe religion to our natural resources,” comments Singh, referring to the Muslim name, Neelum, for the waters known as Kishan Ganga on the Indian-administered side).
On October 21, 1947, a war cry arose over the hills that the local non-Muslims were ill-prepared to counter: Loot the Hindus, behead the Sikhs. Armed marauders herded some 300 Sikhs to the bridge on “Domel”. Shots rang out. Among the bodies that toppled into the river were the grandparents (Nana and Nani) of Amardeep Singh’s wife.
Also killed were both parents of five-year old Jaswanti. A Muslim neighbour the next morning found the little girl scrambling along the riverbank looking for her father and mother. He took her into his own home, renamed her Noori, and brought her up as his daughter.
Jaswanti/ Noor is Amardeep’s distant “bua” (aunt) related to his father. In his book he relates the stranger-than-fiction story of how she was found in 1998 and connected to her to the Sikh side of her family. At 73 years, today she continues to live in Pakistan as a Muslim.
Amardeep recounts how, looking at the bridge over the river, he let the soil fall back to the earth from his hands at “Domel”. It was what he had come for. But he realised that the lesson he wanted to impart to his children was different. This souvenir could remind them forever of hatred and bloodshed.
“I went to get soil but came back with a book,” he says. The soil would have been just for his daughters. The book however is a reference for coming generations of future traveler and history lovers.
In the two weeks he had spent so far in Pakistan, Amardeep had realised that the “Sikh legacy” of this land went far beyond gurudwaras and ancestral homes, and was in fact not limited to adherents of the Sikh faith. The legacy lived on in human interactions, experiences, memories, music, poetry, spirituality and other aspects of a shared history that belongs not just to Sikhs but also to Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others. For example, others too lay claim to rituals, poetry and music that Sikhs consider to be “theirs” This legacy, he stresses, is secular in nature.
Throughout his journey, Amardeep used the lens, not of a pilgrim, but of a traveler chronicling socio-historical aspects.
An important aspect of this lens is to place the contemporary reality of gurudwaras and havelis built and owned by Sikhs into a historical context without blame or judgment. Many of these buildings are being used as police stations, libraries or people’s homes. The mass cross-border exodus left these buildings abandoned, and those who came to this land were bound to fill the vacuum for their own survival.
Putting things in context also means being able to see the positive aspects, like the fact that the Pakistan government has since 1980s been looking after the holy places of non-Muslims. With the mass exodus of an entire community, the government can’t possibly maintain every aspect of the heritage but clearly the intent is there, as Amardeep stresses. The number of functional gurudwaras in the Punjab has increased from one to twenty-three over the past decades. Several Hindu temples has also been revived. People of all faiths must support and encourage these moves even though they may be, as Singh “the tip of the iceberg” given the magnitude of the issue.
Amardeep also holds responsible for the neglect those who have kept silent rather than being vocal in demanding that this heritage be preserved. Sikhs who visit Pakistan don’t even ask to visit the Lahore Museum, he observes. Due to the lack of demand the Museum’s Sikh Gallery has been closed as Amardeep discovered when he tried to see it.
Pakistani Sikhs, he observes, are in general too poor and focused on their own survival to pay attention to such higher pursuits. It is up to the diaspora — increasing numbers of whom now visit Pakistan for religious reasons — to push for these demands beyond religion.
After Partition, practically the only Sikhs left in Pakistan were those living in the Pashtun areas bordering Afghanistan. Post 9/11 Taliban inroads into the region, accompanied by attacks on religious minorities forced large numbers to flee to the Punjab. Many Sikhs took refuge in the Gurdwara Punja Sahib at Hassan Abdal, says Singh. He notes that Pakistan has for years been combating militancy while also reviving the historical religious sites belonging to religious minorities.
All in all, Amardeep Singh’s message is clearly not limited to Sikhs and Punjab or Pakistan. It is about the need to go beyond surface identities and labels to an interconnected, secular past, and universal values. This is not just about the past but the way to a more harmonious way forward.
This article was first published in Himal Southasian. Amardeep Singh’s “Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan” is a monumental 504-page book, weighing 3 kg, with 507 photos complementing the story line. It can be ordered here.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pakistan lifts ban on YouTube after launch of local version

Pakistan lifts ban on YouTube |

We welcome Pakistan’s decision to lift the ban on YouTube.

Freedom of speech is an inalienable right of every individual.  There is no doubt; it will be abused by a few in the society, but the answer is not banning it but countering it with a better product.

It should open up opportunities to film producers in Pakistan to make common sense documentaries and films to counter the films like “Innocence of Muslims.”  We have to shape the societies; Quran calls for countering evil with good, and suggests that your behavior may turn them into your friends.  At least your non-violent behavior will not cause them to make more irritating material. There is a lot of wisdom packed in it.

Indeed, we have shelved the movie “Sacred” for lack of funds.  It will offer understanding to those who disrespect what is sacred to one, like desecrating the Quran or curbing Freedom of speech. The film would develop respect for Islam, as Islam is not the reason for individual’s bad behavior but their own backgrounds, and Muslims would fully understand what freedom of speech means.  If you like to read and consider funding the project – It is here;    

We welcome Pakistan’s decision, so many people are deprived of the knowledge through you tube, now they can see Ghamidi’s talk on Islam.
This is a good sign, and I hope they appoint people from both sides of the spectrum, liberal and conservatives to debate what needs to be taken down, although one should not take down anything.  Let freedom prevail.

Mike Ghouse 
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Pakistan said on Monday it had removed a three-year ban on YouTube after the Google-owned video-sharing website launched a local version that allows the government to demand removal of material it considers offensive.
Pakistan banned access to YouTube in September 2012 after an anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims", was uploaded to the site, sparking violent protests across major cities in the Muslim-majority country of 190 million people.
Under the new version of YouTube, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) can ask for access to offending material to be blocked, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom said in a statement.
"On the recommendation of PTA, the government of Pakistan has allowed access to the recently launched country version of YouTube for internet users in Pakistan," the ministry said.
The government could ask Google to block access to offending material for users within Pakistan and the ministry said Google and YouTube would "accordingly restrict access" for Pakistani users.
Google, however, said that it would not automatically remove material without conducting a review, and that the vetting process was the same as in other jurisdictions with local YouTube versions. Government requests to remove content would be publicly reported, it added.
"We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them," it said in a statement.
"Where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we may restrict access to it after a thorough review."
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, where angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam. The crime of blasphemy can carry the death penalty, although a death sentence has never been carried out.
Pakistan has blocked thousands of web pages it deems undesirable in the last few years as internet access spreads, but activists say the government sometimes blocks sites to muzzle liberal or critical voices.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Wagstaff in Singapore; Editing by Nick Macfie and Stephen Coates)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Muslims rally against ISIS on the steps of Lincoln Memorial


Mike Ghouse (214) 325-1916

American Muslims against ISIS gather up on the steps of Lincoln Memorial

Washington, DC, November 19, 2015 – Muslims around the world and particularly Americans Muslims have been sick of the terrorists, particularly the ISIS and the Al-Qaeda guys ever since they started terrorizing the lives of innocent people. We mourn the loss of lives in France, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere in the world and firmly stand against the terrorists.

Given the short notice prior to the Thanksgiving weekend, the Muslims of Washington, DC have organized a gathering of Americans of different faiths to come together on the steps of Lincoln Memorial and make the statements of condemnations.
We hope this event effectively conveys a message to the terrorists that the world is against them, and that we are all in this together; opposing terrorism and condemning ISIS.  

You are all invited to join us on the steps of Lincoln Memorial:

The purpose of this gathering is to send a clear message to the ISIS and their ilk, that American Muslims are angry about their actions. They are to be charged for the violations of human rights, forcing women into slavery, conversions at gun point, harassment of Christians, Yazidis, Shias, Jews, Sunnis and other minorities, and most certainly creating chaos and abusing the name of Islam. 

We cannot tolerate any of these acts and we urge our president to speak out in behalf of fellow humans,  and give them three days notice to back off, surrender, and repent for their actions or face the consequences.

We invite Americans of all faiths and no faiths to join us in standing up against ISIS.  Yes, we the Muslims are as angry as average American. Indeed, we are all in this together.

We pledge that we are one nation under the flag, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Please join us on the steps of Lincoln Memorial.

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We will be listing as many participating organizations as we can. Please send an email with the name of your organization, website and your phone number,  and we will add to the list below.

01. ADAMS Center, All Dulles Area Muslim Society
02. American Muslim Institution, Washington, DC
03. Washington Area Jews for Jewish Muslim Understanding
04. Geotrees, An Intercultural Crossroads for the History of the Future
05. Islamic Community Center of Potomac
06. Foundation for Pluralism
07. The world Organization for Resources development and Education.
08. Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress 
09. United Maryland Muslim Council
10. Howard County Muslim Council
11. UMA Interfaith Alliance
12. Muslim Community Center of Maryland
13. Montgomery County Muslim Foundation
14. Islamic Center of Greater Toledo 
15. Islamic Center of Long Island
16. IMANA International Collaboration
17. UMMAA Broadcasting
18. Hillside Islamic Center New Hyde Park NY

We appreciate the PSA announcements from Stuart Varney and Jennie Lubart of Fox News and we invite them to cover this event. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pakistan, India and Kashmir Peace Talks - Why War Is Not An Option.

Note: Mona is one of my favorite Muslim human rights activists and I admire her for her work. I wish, I could attend the program, as I am deeply involved in the Anti-Muslim protests and solutions there of, and then go to Salt Lake City for the Parliament of Worlds Religions. 

Please participate in the symposium and things will change if you do something about it and Mona is doing it. Give her the support

Mike Ghouse 

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Pakistan, India and Kashmir Peace Talks - Why War Is Not An Option.

By Mona Kazim Shah

This symposium is scheduled for the 10th of Oct, 2015 at UT Dallas at 2 PM at Naveen Jindal School of Management. It is organized by #ProjectPakistan, an ongoing campaign that speaks for human rights issues, has philanthropic projects, political radio shows, provides space for open mics, and is working diligently to encourage dialogue to resolve conflicts and promote South Asian art and culture in the U.S.

The focus of this symposium is to bring the youth from Pakistan, Kashmir and India on one forum and to instigate peace talks and healthy dialogue that will finally take their voices further. Since we will be micro blogging and streaming the event live for the participation of the audience in the region, we expect our voices to reach back home. We believe the same youth will be part of our government, bureaucracy, policy making and pressure groups in a very short time and is capable to take these talks to the next level. They have shown serious political acumen and the will to re-open the frozen issues, such as the one under discussion.
The panelists are pro peace, pro dialogue Journalists/Academics/Activists/Artists who have worked in their own capacities for years and have paid a price for it.

 Beena Sarwar, a journalist, artist and documentary filmmaker from Pakistan (focusing on media, gender, peace and human rights issues) who also work part time as Editor, Aman ki Asha, a peace initiative between the Jang Group of Newspapers, Pakistan and The Times of India. I asked her about the fact if any change should be expected from younger generation of government/bureaucracy? Her answer was in affirmation she also added that, “Politicians, business people and even a common person is capable of bringing about a change, the younger generation doesn't have the baggage or carry the animosity. Most want to live in peace and have good relations. I believe that the change is happening, but it will take time” Beena said optimistically. Beena currently teaches Journalism at Brown.

Raza Ahmad Rumi, a Pakistani journalist and policy analyst who serves as an editor at The Friday Times, Pakistan's foremost liberal weekly paper, had an interesting analysis about the role that media can play in bringing India, Kashmir and Pakistan on the same page. According to Rumi, “The media is a powerful player now, even stronger than state actors. It has a vital role in shaping public opinion for peace-building. However, the disturbing corporatization of media means that you have to sell conflict for profits. This is why peace and diplomacy find less traction and more sensational stuff is witnessed. This has grave implications for the future peace efforts”.

Rumi, himself survived an assassination attempt by religious extremists in Pakistan last year. Rumi’s book, Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveler is a must read.

Dr.Amie Maciszewski, an international musician, a Sitarist who will be opening the symposium with a Kashmiri folk tune told us how her life has been about liminality: negotiating borderlands and building bridges. She has been studying and practicing expressive traditions, particularly music, of a complex region like South Asia.  For her Kashmir is one such borderland which has been enriched by intercultural encounter, dialogue, and collaboration.  Amie believes, Symposia like this are most important steps towards dialogue, collaboration, and, ultimately, mutual enrichment.

At this much anticipated event, we also have Dr. Pritpal Singh as a panelist. A Physician who has always stood up and addressed Human Rights Issues with great passion.  He is an executive with Cigna. He facilitates workshops and projects which aim to fight both religious and political oppression through reflection, awareness, and activism.  Dr. Singh is a frequent guest speaker at the educational, religious, and social forums.  Dr. Singh believes, “Conflict only furthers tensions and creates more divisions, solutions that take the route of peace are the only ones that provide political and social harmony and is of optimal value.”

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is on the faculty of the Expository Writing Program and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma. She is a native of Kashmir, and a native speaker of the Kashmir language.

 Dr. Khan believes that the younger generation of Kashmir has witnessed the militarization of the Valley and has grown up in a traumatized environment. She told me that when she interacted with young people at various academic institutions, she realized that they have tremendous potential.  Dr. Khan said, “I hope the right opportunities are created for them, not just in academia and the government sector, but in the private sector as well” She hopes that young Kashmiris tap into the potential that they have, “only then there is hope for light at the end of the tunnel”.

Nyla Ali Khan has most recently edited a major anthology, The Parchment of Kashmir: History, Society, and Polity, which develops an unparalleled understanding of the region’s culture, resilience and fate as political pawn. Her recent book, ‘The Life of a Kashmiri Woman’ a critically acclaimed work, is a hybrid form of academic memoir and biography on her maternal grandmother, Begum Akbar Jehan. Nyla’s goal is to engage in reflective action as an educator questioning the erosion of cultural syncretism, the ever increasing dominance of religious fundamentalism, and the irrational resistance to cultural and linguistic differences.

Amitabh Pal is the Managing Editor of The Progressive. He has interviewed the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter and John Kenneth Galbraith. In addition to his role as the Managing Editor, Pal is the Co-Editor of the Progressive Media Project. He is the author of "Islam" Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today.
Quoting one of Amit’s articles, “The international community including the United States, the European Union and other nations has pressed for India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue”

According to Pal, “Indians and Pakistanis deserve a better future than the fate their leaders have bestowed on them for more than half a century and both countries need to work toward that -- step by step”.

The panelists, the audience and the city look forward to this very timely and important discussion that may lead to positive results. This is yet another effort in the name of peace by the people who truly believe that war has not and will not solve anything.  We are done with the tired rhetoric and losing innocent lives on the borders. All three regions can use the money it invests on defense on development, health care and education of its masses.
We would like to thank our partners and supporters for trusting us and our efforts for this Peace Symposium and for joining hands with us in making a difference.  We thank United Nations Dallas Chapter (UNAUSA Dallas),  Pakistan Students Association UT Dallas, Indian Students Association UT Dallas, Embrey Human Rights Program Deadman College, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Never Forget Pakistan, Pakistan Society of North Texas (PSNT) Fun Asia Radio, Dallas, Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB), Dallas Peace and Justice Center, Pakistan Students Association UNT, Indian Students Association UNT and World Echoes  from the bottom of our hearts.

About the Author: Dr. Mona Kazim Shah is the Founder of #ProjectPakistan, Journalist and Human Rights Activist. Dr. Shah is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Global Studies and Human Rights & Social Justice from Southern Methodist University. She lives with her husband and twin daughters in Dallas.  She can be reached at

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy birthday to Pakistan | Happy Independence day

Happy Independence day to all the Pakistanis |
67 Years ago today, Pakistan was born. Indeed it was created out of the British India on August 14, 1947 and then on the next day, August 15, 1947, India celebrated her independence.  

As a Muslim Pluralist, I have always worked on the concept that we all belong to the same family born from Adam and Eve, and that God has chosen for each one of us to be born in a different communities, nations, religions and races.   

Back in 1993 (to 2000), I started a Newspaper called Asian News, with a page dedicated to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

In 1996, I started Asian News Radio, the first commercial radio in Dallas which continues today as Fun Asia Radio.  After 2000, I did different programs, and one of them was during the month of August, every morning 7-8 AM from the 1st through the 15th of the month.    

Each day my team shared a different aspect of the subcontinent from the cultural, geographic, ethnic, cuisine, clothing, cultural, singing to politics to national heroes of all the three nations, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with identical history. I had a great team to do the full hour of program with Sandhya doing shehar ka chakkar, Tamim doing one thing, Gayathri focusing on literature and Najma playing the songs.

What remains nostalgic to me was August 14th and 15th – on those two days, I took live calls asking Indians to sing the Pakistani national songs on Pakistan Day, and it was amazing so many Indians had learned the songs, and vice versa happened on the 15th, our Pakistani friends sang Indian national songs. What a joy it was to hear the goodwill sprouting from the lips of fellow Subcontinentians. 

The Partition was difficult and intense - with people moving from one land to the other and vice versa, perhaps it was the greatest human migration in a single month ever. Of course it came with massive suffering - people killing and butchering each other on both sides. Unless we both learn to acknowledge that the suffering and infliction of misery was mutual, we will continue to harbor ill-will and die with it.

I urge my fellow Subcontinentians, whether they are Pakistani-Americans, Indian Americans, or Bangladeshi Americans to acknowledge the suffering but never reduce or discount other's suffering, and please do not inject ill-will in the hearts of your children towards the other. Some of our kids may buy our baggage and continue to hold ill-will even here in America, but most kids reject our hatred for the other. I had to work hard with my Son when was mistreated by the Pakistan kids in the mall, I am glad he does not hold any bias towards Pakistani people despite the treatment he got. Some people will live with hate and ill-will until they die and never receive the true freedom.  Its time we do the right thing. 

On my part, I am blessed to have so many friends in all spheres of life including Pakistanis, I am a life member of the Pakistani Society of North Texas, and almost joined the Pakistan American Association of Texas before I moved to Washington. I also run the Dallas Pakistanis yahoogroups for the last 14 years, with nearly 1000 members, it has been the only reliable source of information for the community. Now, there are other groups and glad to see them all thrive.  

Thank God for blessing with a firm belief that we are all from Adam and Eve, and that I have no barrier between me and another human. No barrier at all. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asserted that no human is superior to the other in his last sermon, and I believe in it whole heartedly. 

The most important thing is listening - I have listened to the tragic stories from several of my Pakistani friends the torture and butchery they withstood during the partition, and have heard first hand from many of my Indian friends how their sisters and mothers were raped in front of them... The story is same on both sides, man becomes animal in distress, religions does not matter to the beast in those moments of insecurity. 

On this independence day, may I ask you to acknowledge the atrocities Indians have committed on you, and forgive them. You will find Mukti, Nijaat, Nirvana and salvation in it. When our hearts are filled with goodwill, everything is possible.

May I also ask you to stand up for every Pakistani, no matter what faith, race or class he or she belongs to.  If you have friends from Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Parsee, Jewish, Shia, Ahmadi, Ismaili, Bohra and other communities, call them and wish them Azaadi Mubarak, and let them know that you care about them, as well as willing to defend their God given right to be who they are. Don't worry if others don't do it, its your own conscience you have to honor. Just do it and if you have the time, please write to me the goodness you felt in you.

Please see the movie "Bajrang Bhaijan" -it is a beautiful movie about a Pakistan girl lost in India and how she was brought back to Pakistan by an Indian who had nothing to do with Muslims. Here is my review 

I wish a very happy independence day to both the Pakistani and Indian friends. As an Indian, I will write and if possible speak some where about India. 

Pakistan Paindabad !

Please check about what I am doing in Washington now.  -

Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. All about him is listed in several links and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.comand 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pakistani Hindus are a resilient minority too

Pakistani Hindus are a resilient minority too | 

It's a  fascinating article about Pakistani Hindus, Sameer Arshad writes, "
The likes of Karni do not fit into how Pakistani Hindus are perceived in India" and most Indians would nod yes to it.   There is no doubt about the persecution, abductions and forcible conversions that are going in Pakistan; unfortunately the government has failed Pakistanis in protecting the rights of all citizens. Those thugs should not call themselves Muslims. Here is another story to it as well, that Sameer has painted it well.  The Pakistani Muslims have hard time believing that Indian Muslims would not want to live in any other nation than India.

Both Nations are identical in nature; they are indeed copy cats in doing bad things. Nuclear power, minorities live in apprehension, honor killing/bride burning, forcible conversions/ ghar wapasi, church burning, both deny visa to each other, and the leaders on both sides don't have the balls to put their foot down. Then the right wing Hindus of India and right wing Muslims of Pakistan speak the same language. What we need to do is to speak up against the extremists, because the majority of all of us are good people, be it religious, nationalistic or whatever stick, 

Some 12 years ago, I spoke at Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas on the eve of Janamashtami, several Pakistani Hindu Americans came up and talked to me, and said that they could relate with me. And in Louisville, my second home, I spoke at length with Dr. Lohano and Dr. Bhimani - yes, I could relate with them; the story is same except role reversals.  I am focused on initiating a course on Pluralism at this time, if not there is a need to study the Majority Minority relationships - no matter what religious cloak you wear, the behavior is identical.  The responsibility to call ourselves a civil society falls on the majority in how they treat their minorities.  No nation on the earth can be called completely civilized nation. May be we need to develop a civility index and measure nations.

I have appended three related articles below if you have the time.

Mike Ghouse 

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Pakistani Hindus are a resilient minority too
Coutresy - Times of India

Disbelief swept social media when the scion of an influential Pakistani Hindu family, Karni Singh, married an Indian woman with much Rajput pomp in Jaipur last week. It was understandable as any mention of Pakistani Hindus conjures up images of a necessarily persecuted minority. Expressions like influential Pakistani Hindu groom as such naturally sound oxymoronic. How has been it possible for Karni’s family to maintain its status and influence? This was the question that baffled many. The likes of Karni do not fit into how Pakistani Hindus are perceived in India. It has a lot to do with the idea of India seen as an ideal one in contrast with flawed Pakistan and prompts a broad-brushed portrayal of Pakistani Hindus as essentially hounded. The depiction cloaks complicated issues of class and caste besides admirable resilience of many Hindus, who have excelled in varied fields despite odds.
Padmini Karni ladies
Karni Singh’s family is one of many upper caste Hindus, who have made a mark in politics, judiciary, activism, sports and fashion. In fact, at least one Hindu business family is among the highest taxpayers in Pakistan along with two Parsi clans of hoteliers and winemakers. In politics, Karni’s family has excelled since partition when its patriarch and Hindu Sodha clan head Rana Arjun Singh stayed back in Pakistan. He was a Muslim League member, who ignored calls for joining the Congress. Arjun Singh’s son, Chander Singh, carried forward his legacy and went on to become a parliamentarian, a federal minister and founding member of liberal Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Chander Singh enjoyed cross-border influence to the extent that he brokered the India-Pakistan thaw that facilitated then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic Lahore trip in 1999.
Tika ceremony - Sadaf Aijaz
Karni’s father, Rana Hameer Singh, now holds sway in Thar Desert region that has a large Hindu population as Sodha Rajput head. His family has maintained its status in the area over centuries despite many destabilising upheavals due to its unique legacy. Hameer’s forefather and Amarkot (now Umerkot) ruler Rana Prasad had given refuge to emperor Humayun and his pregnant wife after Sher Shah Suri ousted the Mughal emperor in 1540. The royal couple’s illustrious son, Akbar, was born in Amarkot two years later under Rana Prasad’s protection. Akbar would perhaps have never been able to reclaim his father’s empire and expand it had not it been for Rana Prasad’s help. The bond boosted Hindu-Muslim affinity in syncretic Sindh. It endured in places like Umerkot even after the horrible rupture in 1947 that convulsed large parts of the subcontinent. The syncretism was evident when Rana Hameer Singh was anointed his father’s successor in May 2010. A large number of Hindus and Muslims joined his grand coronation in a procession in Hindu-dominated Mithi town. Hameer Singh arrived at the venue to his coronation in a convoy of hundreds of vehicles as two girls performed aarti. Hameer Singh sat on a decorated chariot while Rajputs in traditional headgear lined the road amid Hindu chants as part of an 800-year-old coronation tradition.
Padmini Karni Roka
Communist leader Sobho Gianchandani was antithesis of the Ranas and perhaps best embodied Hindu resilience in Pakistan. His death aged 94 in Larkana in December 2014 ended his seven decade struggle against the establishment, imperialism, dictatorship, unjust society and Sindh’s autonomy. Gianchandani, who belonged to a landed upper caste family as well, refused to leave Pakistan in 1947 even as he was repeatedly incarcerated after his Communist Party of Pakistan was proscribed six years later. His consciousness was shaped a decade earlier while he studied at Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan University. Gianchandani remained resolute as one of Pakistan’s best-known Marxists. He organised peasants and industrial workers. The mobilisation helped Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s socialist PPP win the 1970 national election within two years of its formation. Pakistan’s slide began after General Zia-ul-Haq deposed Bhutto and had him hanged. The USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan eight months later made Zia the darling of the west as he colluded with it against the Soviets. Gianchandani was a leading voice of dissent against Zia-US alliance that abused religion, boosted fanaticism and began corroding the society in the 1980s. Despite his lifelong anti-establishment credentials, the government at least recognized Gianchandani’s contribution to literature when he became the first Sindhi to be awarded Pakistan Academy of Letter’s Award of Excellence in 2004.
Away from the uncertainty of activism in feudal, rural Sindh, designer Deepak Perwani remains Pakistan’s best-know fashion designer and most glamorous Hindu. He belongs to landed elite among Pakistani Hindus based mostly in Karachi and Hyderabad and remains enduring symbols of the country’s soft power. As the face of Pakistani fashion globally, the iconic fashion designer has been the originator of Islamic fashion festival, He was named Pakistan’s cultural ambassador to China and Malaysia a decade earlier. Deepak’s brother, Naveen Perwani, is among Pakistan’s best-known snooker players, who has represented the country globally and won medals at the Asian Games. But cricketer Danish Kaneria remains the country’s most successful Hindu sportsman. He became the country’s highest wicket-taking test spinner before match-fixing ended his promising career. Kaneria’s cousin, Anil Dalpat, too played for Pakistan in the 1980s.
Padmini Pratap Kanota
Pakistani Hindus are predominantly traders, who have excelled in big businesses as well. Hindu-owned Chawla International (CI) is one of Pakistan’s biggest agricultural products company. It is among the largest suppliers of pesticides and owns Pakistan’s biggest rice mill. Businessman Bhagwan Das Chawla set up CI in December 1999 after excelling in family trade in tobacco, coal and beverages. Chawla’s main business before 1999 was octroi/tax collection nationally for the government with annual turnover of one billion.
Beyond business, Captain Danish earned the distinction of being the first Pakistani Hindu army officer when he was commissioned in 2006. Another officer Aneel Kumar has followed in his footsteps. Both belong to Sindh and joined the army despite family opposition. Danish has served in Wana in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where army soldier Ashok Kumar died fighting Taliban terrorists last year.
In judiciary, Rana Bhagwandas remains a role model thanks to his integrity. He went on to take the highest judicial post when he served as the first Hindu and third non-Muslim chief justice of Pakistan. He headed the country’s Federal Public Service Commission after his retirement. Bhagwandas is a regular visitor to Hindu mystic Neelu Bhagwan’s ashram in Uttar Pradesh and a follower of Sindh’s most-venerated saint Ishtadeva Uderolal Jhulelal or Darya Shah. The saint epitomises Sindh’s unique syncretic culture. Both Hindus and Muslims venerate mystics like Jhulelal, who are often known by different names among the two communities. A mosque and a temple exist in harmony on Jhulelal’s mausoleum complex near Sukkur in Sindh.
Sindh retains the semblance of its inclusive past as a result of the legacy of the mystics such as Jhulelal. It is home to all religious and ethnic communities. Over 90% Pakistani Hindus live in the province, where Hindus account for 49% of the population in Umerkot, 46% in Tharparkar and 33% in Mirpurkhas district. Their population varies from 8-19% elsewhere in Sindh. A majority of them belong to lower castes, who have not been beneficiaries of caste reform like in India. It is no coincidence that the Ranas, Gianchandhanis, Perwanis, Kanerias, Chawlas etc are all upper caste and largely shielded by vulnerabilities Dalits face particularly in rural Sindh. The plight of lower castes mirrors that of Muslim peasants reeling under the oppression of waderas (landlords), who dominate politics and have frustrated all attempts to carry out land reforms.
A minuscule minority of Goan Christians and Parsis like upper caste Hindus have excelled in virtually all fields purely because of their class. Goan Christian community in particular has given Pakistan some of its finest journalists, top ranking military officers, educationists, sportspeople, businessmen, musicians, jurists etc. Its affluence is in total contrast to Dalit Christian converts in Punjab, who continue to suffer discrimination like Hindu scheduled castes. A weak state and deep-rooted feudalism compounds their problems and make them softer targets of violence. Benefits of the quota systems in legislative bodies and jobs have not benefited lower castes as the state sees the Hindus as a monolith without taking yawning disparities between upper and scheduled castes into account. Reservations as such have been reduced to tokenism as upper castes exclusively benefit from them. Except Khatu Mal Jeewan, Kanji Ram and Poonjo Bheel, all other 21 Hindus lawmakers in Pakistan’s parliament and four provincial assemblies are upper caste. Pakistani activists have long complained 10% upper caste Hindus rule the majority 90% scheduled castes.
Quotas in jobs have not helped lower castes either at both federal and provincial levels as they are not exclusively entitled to them. Minorities on the whole irrespective of their varied conditions are entitled to five per cent job reservation in federal government services, including the Central Superior Services (equivalent of Indian Administrative Services) and provincial jobs in Punjab and Sindh. Smaller provinces Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa offer them three per cent job reservation. Quotas would remain meaningless as long as they are not implemented with greater sense of purpose that ends all forms of discrimination as well. Perhaps serious revision of text books that portray minorities as the other could be the first step in this direction. Pakistani state’s attempts to overhaul the country in the face of existential nihilistic Taliban threat would remain meaningless unless well-being and equality for minorities is not ensured. It is now or never for Pakistan to understand diversity is a strength that needs to be nurtured. The sooner it is realised, the better it would be for the state at crossroads and corroding from within courtesy Zia’s toxic legacy of exclusion dating back to the 1980s.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Sameer Arshad
Sameer Arshad is a chief copy editor with The Times of India. He primarily rewrites and edits news stories, but writing on Kashmir, human rights, minority affairs, Af-Pak, South and West Asia is his labour of love.

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