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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Monday, June 1, 2015

Why Is Pakistan Such a Mess? Blame India.

None of us in India and Pakistan are square with the partition, even after three generations have passed. 

As a disclosure, Mahatma Gandhi is one of my mentors and whatever he did was for the common good of humanity regardless of religion.  

The Pakistani and RSS versions are exactly alike in the opposite directions, both hate Gandhi, and both claim that he was anti-Muslim or Anti-Hindu by the Pakistanis and the Parivar respectively.

The third group is a majority of the Indians and many a Pakistanis who admire Gandhi.

Modi surprised a majority of Indians by bowing to Gandhi statute on his first day on the job. I need to verify his sincerity given his RSS background. 

But, I want to give him the benefit of doubt, since Vajpayee, a communalist with Jan Sangh background could turn into a statesman, Modi can do it too.  A position of responsibility changes one’s perspective. 

Never before in the history, had a prime minister had a free hand, rather unopposed hand in dealing with many issues of the day. Modi’s eerie silence did not bode well, but his foreign trips have made him rise above petty politics and the statement (June 1, 2015) he made today about not tolerating discrimination is good and I welcome it whole heartedly. 

Obama has influenced him, Modi was earnestly looking for his approval and got it, and mending his ways to be like him, and I pray he does become like him. 

He can take India to new heights among the family of nations, and bring prosperity to India and Pakistan.

The following article has many good points of agreement and disagreements.

Mike Ghouse
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Why Is Pakistan Such a Mess? Blame India.
By Nisid HajariMay 26, 2015

Courtesy Foreign 

Why Is Pakistan Such a Mess? Blame India.

 Of all the hopes raised by Narendra Modi’s election as prime minister of India one year ago, perhaps the grandest was ending the toxic, decades-long rivalry with Pakistan. Inviting his counterpart Nawaz Sharif to the swearing-in — remarkably, a first since their nations were born out of the British Raj in 1947 — was a bold and welcome gesture. Yet within months of Modi’s inauguration, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged some of the most intense shelling in years along their de facto border in Kashmir. Incipient peace talks foundered. And in April, a Pakistani court freed on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, operational commander of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT) and the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, infuriating many in India.

Most Indians believe Pakistan’s generals have little interest in peace, and they’re not entirely wrong. For decades now, hyping the threat from across the border has won the army disproportionate resources and influence in Pakistan. It’s also fueled the military’s most dangerous and destabilizing policies — from its covert support of the Taliban and anti-India militants such as LT, to the rapid buildup of its nuclear arsenal. One can understand why Modi might see no point in engaging until presented with a less intractable interlocutor across the border.

But however exaggerated Pakistan’s fears may be now, Indian leaders bear great responsibility for creating them in the first place. Their resistance to the very idea of Pakistan made the 1947 partition of the subcontinent far bitterer than it needed to be. Within hours of independence, huge sectarian massacres had broken out on both sides of the border; anywhere from 200,000 to a million people would ultimately lose their lives in the slaughter. Pakistan reeled under a tidal wave of refugees, its economy and its government paralyzed and half-formed. Out of that crucible emerged a not-unreasonable conviction that larger, more powerful India hoped to strangle the infant Pakistan in its cradle — an anxiety that Pakistan, as the perpetually weaker party, has never entirely been able to shake.

Then as now, Indian leaders swore that they sought only brotherhood and amity between their two nations, and that Muslims in both should live free of fear. They responded to charges of warmongering by invoking their fealty to Mohandas K. Gandhi — the “saint of truth and nonviolence,” in the words of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In fact, Nehru, and Gandhi himself — the sainted “Mahatma,” or “great soul” — helped breed the fears that still haunt Pakistan today.

There’s little question, for instance, that Gandhi’s leadership of the Indian nationalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s contributed to Muslim alienation and the desire for an independent homeland. He introduced religion into a freedom movement that had until then been the province of secular lawyers and intellectuals, couching his appeals to India’s masses in largely Hindu terms. (“His Hindu nationalism spoils everything,” Russian writer Leo Tolstoy wrote of Gandhi’s early years as a rabble-rouser.) Even as Gandhi’s Indian National Congress party claimed to speak for all citizens, its membership remained more than 90 percent Hindu.

Muslims, who formed a little under a quarter of the 400 million citizens of pre-independence India, could judge from Congress’s electoral victories in the 1930s what life would look like if the party took over from the British: Hindus would control Parliament and the bureaucracy, the courts and the schools; they’d favor their co-religionists with jobs, contracts, and political favors. The louder Gandhi and Nehru derided the idea of creating a separate state for Muslims, the more necessary one seemed.

Ironically, Gandhi may have done the most damage at what is normally considered his moment of triumph — the waning months of British rule. When the first pre-Partition riots between Hindus and Muslims broke out in Calcutta in August 1946, exactly one year before independence, he endorsed the idea that thugs loyal to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, the country’s dominant Muslim party, had deliberately provoked the killings. The truth is hardly so clear-cut: It appears more likely that both sides geared up for violence during scheduled pro-Pakistan demonstrations, and initial clashes quickly spiraled out of control.

Two months later, after lurid reports emerged of a massacre of Hindus in the remote district of Noakhali in far eastern Bengal, Gandhi fueled Hindu hysteria rather than tamping it down. Nearing 80 by then, his political ideas outdated and his instincts dulled by years of adulation, he remained the most influential figure in the country. His evening prayer addresses were quoted and heeded widely. While some Congress figures presented over-hyped casualty counts for the massacre — party chief J.B. Kripalani estimated a death toll in the millions, though the final tally ended up less than 200 — Gandhi focused on wildly exaggerated claims that marauders had raped tens of thousands of Hindu women. Controversially, he advised the latter to “suffocate themselves or … bite their tongues to end their lives” rather than allow themselves to be raped.

Within weeks, local Congress politicians in the nearby state of Bihar were leading ugly rallies calling for Hindus to avenge the women of Noakhali. According to New York Times reporter George Jones, in their foaming outrage “it became rather difficult to differentiate” between the vicious sectarianism of Congress and radical Hindu groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose cadres had begun drilling with weapons to prevent the Partition of India.
Huge mobs formed in Bihar — where Hindus outnumbered Muslims 7 to 1 — and spread across the monsoon-soaked countryside.
Huge mobs formed in Bihar — where Hindus outnumbered Muslims 7 to 1 — and spread across the monsoon-soaked countryside. In a fortnight of killing, they slaughtered more than 7,000 Muslims. The pogroms virtually eliminated any hope of compromise between Congress and the League.
Equally troubling was the moral cover the Mahatma granted his longtime followers Nehru and “Sardar” Vallabhbhai Patel — a Gujarati strongman much admired by Modi, who also hails from Gujarat and who served as the state’s chief minister for over a decade. Echoing Gandhi’s injunction against pushing anyone into Pakistan against their wishes, Nehru and Patel insisted that the huge provinces of Punjab and Bengal be split into Muslim and non-Muslim halves, with the latter areas remaining with India.

Jinnah rightly argued that such a division would cause chaos. Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were inextricably mixed in the Punjab, with the latter in particular spread across both sides of the proposed border. Sikh leaders vowed not to allow their community to be split in half. They helped set off the chain of Partition riots in August 1947 by targeting and trying to drive out Muslims from India’s half of the province, in part to make room for their Sikh brethren relocating from the other side.

Jinnah also correctly predicted that a too-weak Pakistan, stripped of the great port and industrial center of Calcutta, would be deeply insecure. Fixated on building up its own military capabilities and undermining India’s, it would be a source of endless instability in the region. Yet Nehru and Patel wanted it to be even weaker. They contested every last phone and fighter jet in the division of colonial assets and gloated that Jinnah’s rump state would soon beg to reunite with India.

Worse, Congress leaders threatened to derail the handover if they weren’t given power almost immediately. The pressure explains why Britain’s last viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, rushed forward the date of the British withdrawal by 10 months, leaving Pakistan little more than 10 weeks to get established. (Excoriated ever since, the British seemed vaguely to believe they might keep governing Pakistan until the state had gotten on its feet.) Nehru and Patel cared little for Jinnah’s difficulties. “No one asked Pakistan to secede,” Patel growled when pressed by Mountbatten to show more flexibility.

Yes, once the Partition riots broke out, Gandhi and Nehru strove valiantly to rein in the killings, physically risking their own lives to chastise angry mobs of Hindus and Sikhs. Yet to many Pakistanis, these individual efforts counted for little. Gandhi and Nehru couldn’t stop underlings from sabotaging consignments of weapons and military stores being transferred to Pakistan. They didn’t prevent Patel from shipping out trainloads of Muslims from Delhi and elsewhere, which raised fears that India meant to overwhelm its neighbor with refugees. They didn’t silence Kripalani and other Congress leaders, who warned Hindus living in Pakistan to emigrate and thus drained Jinnah’s new nation of many of its clerks, bankers, doctors and traders.

Nor did the Indian leaders show much compunction about using force when it suited them. After Pakistan accepted the accession of Junagadh, a tiny kingdom on the Arabian Sea with a Muslim ruler but almost entirely Hindu population, Congress tried to spark a revolt within the territory — led by Samaldas Gandhi, a nephew of the Mahatma’s; eventually, Indian tanks decided the issue. When Pakistan attempted in October 1947 to launch a parallel uprising in Kashmir — a much bigger, richer state with a Hindu king and Muslim-majority population — Indian troops again swooped in to seize control.

The pacifist Gandhi, who had earlier tried to persuade Kashmir’s maharajah to accede to India, heartily approved of the lightning intervention: “Any encroachment on our land should … be defended by violence, if not by nonviolence,” he told Patel. After Gandhi’s assassination in January 1948, Nehru continued to cite the Mahatma’s blessings to reject any suggestion of backing down in Kashmir.

Gandhi’s motivations may have been pure. Yet he and his political heirs never fully appreciated how the massive power imbalance between India and Pakistan lent a darker hue to their actions. To this day, Indian leaders appear more concerned with staking out the moral high ground on Kashmir and responding to every provocation along the border than with addressing Pakistan’s quite-valid strategic insecurities.

This serves no one except radicals on both sides. With rabid 24-hour satellite channels seizing upon every cross-border attack or perceived diplomatic affront, jingoism is on the rise. Indian strategists talk loosely of striking across the border in the event of another Mumbai-style terrorist attack; Pakistani officials speak with disturbing ease of responding with tactical nuclear weapons. From their safe havens in Pakistan meanwhile, the Taliban have launched one of the bloodiest spring offensives in years in Afghanistan, even as U.S. forces prepare to draw down there. If he truly hopes to break the deadlock on the subcontinent, Modi needs to do something even Gandhi could not: give Pakistan, a nation born out of paranoia about Hindu dominance, less to fear.

Asia’s highest cross in Pakistan, congratulations.

Congratulations to the people of Pakistan.

This is good news, and a  good step forward. I hope with this Pakistan's tradition of Pluralism is rekindled. Let all religions flourish, let God be honored in every which way he can .  As any minority anywhere in the world, the Christian community of Pakistan has gone out of the way to build relationships with the majority and it is time to recognize this. Let the Government of Pakistan protect this monument.

When Barack Obama  became President of the United States, he gave hope to the world, that in a civilized nation, a person's skin color, religion, financial or minority status does not matter, as long as the person has the merit to serve the nation. Islam teaches and the Prophet reinforced the ideals of equal opportunity, access, schooling, housing, jobs or retirement with simple words in his last sermon - no discrimination of any kind and no one is superior to the other.  I am glad to see this cross, it is symbolic.

I hope someday,  the people will rise and make Pakistan once again a civil society and rip the discriminatory laws. I also hope some day a  Christian, Hindu, Sikh or an Ahmadi can become head of the state and uplift the psyche of the nation. Indonesia has done that with Djoko as its president.  That is a pinnacle achievement of a civil society.

I am delighted with this good news, as a Pluralist, may be some of us from Dallas join them in celebrating the opening of the cross.

May God bless Pakistan and  a genuine democracy emerge.

Mike Ghouse 

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Asia’s highest cross in Pakistan: A fitting tribute to selfless Christian community

May 29, 2015, 4:29 PM IST  in Gray Areas | World | TOI

When Pakistani real-estate tycoon Parvez Henry Gill’s dream project would be a reality later this year, it would tower over Pakistan’s financial nerve centre — Karachi — as Asia’s highest Christian cross. Gill hopes to inaugurate the 140-feet religious symbol with large celebration in presence of Pope Francis, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Queen Elizabeth II and ex-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton. The inauguration would be of great symbolic value in a city with large Hindu and Christian population and a sprinkling of Parsis and Sikhs. It would importantly coincide with the implementation of the National Action Plan formulated to combat terrorism and radicalization, which led to massacre of around 150 children in Peshawar last year. The real test of the plan would be how it changes the lives of ordinary Christians and people from other minority communities, who are often at the receiving end of discriminatory laws. Pakistan’s efforts to root out terrorism and radicalisation would be inadequate as long as it does not fulfill the promise of equal citizenship the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah had emphatically made to the minorities. In case of Christians in particular, it would not be a favour but recognition of their selfless services to the country.
(Getty images)
A 140-foot cross at the Gora Qabristan Cemetery (Getty images)
The Pakistani Christian contribution has not been limited to healthcare and quality education, which has given Pakistan some of its finest politicians, jurists, soldiers and sportsmen. The community has perhaps punched above it weight most in the battlefield, something that may surprise most. Christian officers have made their presence felt in upper echelons of Pakistani armed forces and have been decorated with highest gallantry awards. Air Commodore Nazir (Bill) Latif was one of the first Christian officers to make a mark in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). He has the distinction of commanding all PAF fighter wings besides its Fighter Leader’s School and the tactical wing. Bill came into his in the 1965 war when India overwhelmed Pakistan as its tanks crossed the border and had Lahore Cantonment within their range.
Nazir (Bill) Latif (Wikipedia)
In his 2011 obituary in a Pakistan newspaper, Bill’s junior, Air Commodore (retd) Sajad Haider, echoed criticism of Pakistani version of exaggerated exploits in the 1965 war as ‘unsubstantiated rhetoric’. But he credited men like Bill with ‘halting the juggernaut of the Indian invasion’. Haider wrote Bill’s last mission during the war ‘was the deepest penetration’ in Indian territory against ‘their farthest bomber base in Agra – with Mig-21s, SAM missiles and the inferno of light and heavy anti-aircraft shells emblazing the sky over the target’. He added Pakistan’s second highest military award — Hilal-e-Jurat —was created for him, which he got for the second time for his role in the 1971 war even as Pakistan was decimated and dismembered. Bill, according to Haider, was the only commander in his air rank to fly ‘dangerous daylight and night missions against the Indian deluge in Khokhrapar sector threatening Hyderabad (Sindh)’ in 1971.
Like Bill, Wing Commander Mervyn Lesley Middlecoat is known for his rare exploits in the otherwise disastrous 1971 Pakistani campaign. He was conferred Sitara-e-Jurat for the second time posthumously when he fell into the sea after he ejected from his aircraft as a missile hit it over the Gulf of Kutch while strafing aircraft at Jamnagar air force base in 1971. Middlecoat (31) was commanding PAF’s 26 Squadron in Peshawar before the war. He had opted out of a deputation to Jordon to take part in it. Middlecoat was among six pilots chosen for bombing heavily-guarded Jamnagar base. He had earlier been awarded Sitara-e-Jurat for the first time during the 1965 war for defending Karachi when Indian jets bombed the city. The Ludhiana-born Anglo-Pakistani had brought down two jets and earned the name of the ‘Defender of Karachi’. Group Captain Faisal Chaudhry, another Christian officer, too was awarded Sitara-e-Jurrat twice for his role in 1965 and 1971 wars.
Rear-Admiral Leslie Norman Mungavin, who had opted out of his posting in London as defence attaché to fight the 1971 war, has the distinction of being the highest ranking Pakistani Christian military officer. He served as a prisoner of war following his capture in Chittagong before becoming the deputy chief of Pakistani navy and National Shipping Corporation chairman. The two-star admiral had opted for Pakistan after partition and served its navy for 33 years. He commanded various war ships and was awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan in recognition of his services. Mungavin’s body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the Arabian Sea following his military funeral as per his wishes in Pakistan following his death in UK in 1995.
In the army, Christian officers Noeel Israel and Julian Peter have achieved the third highest — Major General — rank. Many like Yubri Malven and Simon Simon Sharaf, who is now a leading member of Imran Khan’s party, have been Brigadiers. Sharaf’s brother, Captain Justin George Napoleon Sharaf, spent over a year in an Indian prisoner of war camp after he was captured following the fall of Dhaka in 1971. Allahabad-born ex-federal minister Shiv Kumar Tressler, a Christian, retired as a colonel before joining the Foreign Service, where he went on to become director general in 1994. Among the decorated Christian army officers, Major Sermecis Rauf was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for bravery. In 2009, Major Julian James, a commando, was wounded while fighting the Taliban death cult in Swat.
But no Christian officer has captured the public imagination as much as fighter pilot Cecil Chaudhry, whose contributions go beyond the battlefield. He was first conferred Pakistan’s third highest bravery award for his role in the 1965 war. But his heroics became legendary in the 1971 war even though his country was decimated and disremembered. Cecil Chaudhry is said to have continued flying his plane at the height of 3,500 feet even as it took a hit. The plane caught fire as Chaudhry landed it on a minefield with broken ribs inside the Pakistani territory. He was decorated with his second bravery award as he insisted on continuing fighting and shot down two aircraft over the area, where his own plane had been hit. Cecil Chaudhry had been cleared for promotion in 1983, but was shocked to learn that military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq had blocked it as part of his poisonous policies of exclusion. The decorated officer resigned three years later as Group Captain after 28-year-old career.
Cecil Chaudhry (Wikipedia)
He used his stature to speak up for the victims of injustices in the Pakistani society till his death as an activist and educationalist. He fought Zia’s poisonous legacy in the form of draconian blasphemy laws. He mentored Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic federal minister who was killed in Islamabad in March 2011 for his campaign against the draconian laws often used to target poor Christians. Cecil Chaudhry vowed to continue his struggle against the draconian laws after Bhatti’s assassination even as he was battling lung cancer.
Cecil Chaudhry had his share of successes as an activist. He was instrumental in ending separate electorates system for the minorities, which was another poisonous Zia legacy of religious apartheid. Cecil Chaudhry saw this as a betrayal of Jinnah’s ideals. He had a very non-sectarian view of activism and believed powerful persecuted 90% of his countrymen. The celebrated fighter pilot passed away in June 2012. Hundreds of politicians, military officers, educationalists and activists bid him final farewell at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. They celebrated his legacy that is at par with his countrymen like Victor Turner and Alvin Robert Cornelius, who was Pakistan’s first non-Muslim chief justice. Agra-born Cornelius belonged to the Goan Christian community, which along with upper caste Hindus and Parsis buck the general trend of marginalisation of religious minorities. Hindus in Pakistan mostly belong to the lower castes, while large numbers of Christians are descendants of converts from these communities. This is among the reasons of their marginalisation.
Goan Christians are among the most prosperous minority communities in Pakistan. The community has given Pakistan some of the finest journalists, soldiers, educationists, sportspeople, businessmen, jurists etc. Goan Christians began making a mark ever since they arrived in Karachi when the British occupied Sindh under Charles Napier in 1843. They were attracted to the sleepy coastal-village-turned-megacity as it offered them new opportunities in trade and commerce. Parsis and Goans in fact managed the city as majority of the Hindus left Karachi while Indian Muslims began arriving there in 1947. They ran educational institutions, hospitals clubs, pubs and wine stores. According to a Pakistani Goan Christian website, Goans in particular ‘were in the limelight of everything, from municipality to customs, judiciary to policing, sports, music and stage plays to ballroom dancing, and of course cuisiné.
Goan Frank D’Souza, who was the first Indian to become a Railway Board member under the British, set-up Pakistan’s railway system in 1947 on Jinnah’s request. Tollentine Fonseca wrote the musical score of Pakistan’s national anthem while Manuel Misquita was one of Karachi’s first elected mayors after the formation of Pakistan.
Anthony Mascarenhas, whose famous article in 1971 turned the tide against Pakistan in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971, was a Goan Pakistani Christian. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi cited his article, saying it shocked her deeply and prompted her to campaign globally to prepare ground for India’s intervention in East Pakistan. Mascarenhas was very close to the Pakistani establishment. This was the reason why he was handpicked along with seven other Pakistani journalists for a 10-day tour to East Pakistan. The tour was organised to ‘expose Bengali rebels’ for massacring thousands of people opposed to them. Mascarenhas’s colleagues toed the establishment’s line while he had an article published in the UK’s The Sunday Times headlined ‘Genocide’, detailing the extent of Pakistani brutality in East Pakistan. Mascarenhas later became the first journalist to report Pakistan had developed nukes in 1979.
In the battlefield, Goan Brigadier Mervyn Cardoza’s exploits won him Tamgha-e-Khidmat (seventh highest award). His brother, Colonel Eric Cardoza, Lieutenant Colonel David DeSouza, Major Joseph Lobo, Major Kenneth Cardoza, Brigadier Dr Hilary Zuzarte have received Sitara-e-Basalat. Air Commodore Charles Zuzarte was decorated with the Sitara-e-Basalat. Other prominent Goans, who have served the military with distinction, include Brigadier FG Pinto (army), Commanders Stanislaus DeSouza, Arthur Cardoza, and Lieutenant Commander Phillip Menezes (navy), Flight Lieutenants Reginald Nazareth and Rudy D’Souza (air force). Among the sleuths Blasé Mascarenhas, who retired as Intelligence Bureau deputy director, was decorated Tamgha-e-Khidmat, for their services. Maurice Raymond was the first Pakistani General Manager of the Karachi Port Trust, while Joseph D’Mello went on to become Pakistan Railway Board chairman and Sydney Pereira the head of Atomic Energy Commission. Among the sportsmen, Mathais Wallis, who batted with Hanif Mohammad’s during his record 337-run innings at Port of Spain in 1958, and Antao D’Souza played test cricket for Pakistan.
Most of these men grew up in Karachi, which has suffered the most as a result of Pakistan’s obsession with strategic depth in Afghanistan and the chronic extremism it brought to the city still known for its diversity. Gill’s record-breaking cross should be an important celebration of this diversity and Christian contribution to the city and the country. Pakistan needs to compliment it with more concrete measures that go beyond tokenism and combat radicalism corroding the society with greater sense of purpose. By attending the inauguration of the cross, Prime Minister Sharif should put the money where his mouth is to end the scourge of extremism, which cannot be ended with out rooting Zia’s poisonous exclusionary policies reflected in discriminatory laws against the minorities. Karachi is Pakistan’s soul and the cross coming up there is perhaps a good omen for Islamabad’s promised curative surgery to rid the country of the cancer of extremism.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.