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Meet Sindh’s millionaire beggars

Meet Sindh’s millionaire beggars

Posted on 17 January 2018 by Usama Hashmi - Total hits: 18

LARKANA/KARACHI: As the rice harvest season is in full swing in upper Sindh where farmers are busy reaping the rewards of their yearlong labour, wealthy beggars have begun arriving in hoardes on motorcycles, cars and even mini-jeeps.

Every day these paradoxically wealthy beggars visit different villages and beg farmers and landowners for harvested grain. There are two kinds of people who visit these areas every year to beg – some come with requests for help while others call themselves ‘Syeds’ and ask for contributions. This practice is not confined to a particular caste or religion – Muslims, non-Muslims and people from various tribes and communities have made this their source of income.

Rahib Shah, a 75 year old man who lives in Larkana city, used to visit villages on foot and collect harvested grains. He now has purchased a mini-jeep and travels with three ‘helpers’ to help him collect the rice and transport it to a storage facility he built in the area. “What can we do? He calls himself a Syed so we give him [donations] in the name of the descendants of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who laid down their lives for our religion,” explained Mohammad Panah, a resident of Boohar village in Larkana. Rahib is not the only one to operate in the area – dozens of others wander around in the winter season to beg.
Shankar, 57, a scheduled caste Hindu who started begging when he was a teenager, now owns a three-storey building in Bagri Muhalla, Larkana in which he has rented out five shops. He and his wife travel around during harvesting season on a motorcycle and ask farmers for grains.

“He is the richest person in his entire family, but has not given up his habit of begging,” said Rizwan Ahmed, a local resident. “The couple embarks on their journey and spends the entire day wandering from village to village before coming home at sunset.” Ahmed added that they have built storage units where they store the harvested grain and later sell it. Begging is, however, a crime and Section 7 (1) of the Vagrancy Act 1958 says, “The police, without an order from a magistrate and without a warrant, can arrest and search any person who appears to him to be a vagrant.” The Sindh Children Act, 1955 also bans children beggars. “Under this law a maximum punishment for children begging forcibly or willingly is one year with a fine,” said Iqbal Detho, a civil society activist who has worked on this issue extensively. According to sociologists, however, there are a number of factors behind begging.

“There are organised gangs of beggars while others are forced to beg because of land fragmentation, poverty and a lack of resources to earn a livelihood,” said Detho. “In towns and cities, begging has turned into an organised business. Some gangs deploy their members in specific locations that are leased out for a specific time,” he explained. “There was a time when people in rural areas used to spare a share of their crop yield for Syeds, but this trend is fading away with each passing day. No popular gadi or Syed family follows the trend anymore because they are now [involved in politics] and have become rich,” he said. Detho added that some splinter groups and other Syeds still follow the tradition. According to him, donkey carts and horse carriages were the earlier modes of transport but recently they have started travelling in motorised vehicles.

Hasan Manghanhar, a beggar who lives in Larkana city, said that begging is a profession they have inherited from their forefathers. “Four of us [family members] go out to beg and bring back a sum that is enough to run our kitchen,” he said, adding that begging is not as easy as others think it to be.

“People don’t give money unless you know the way to get it out of them,” he explained, adding that even beggars have to work hard to meet their targets. “I prefer to stay in the city and earn hardly Rs500 to Rs1,000 per day,” said Manghanhar, adding that many of his relatives have become millionaires from begging yet they still beg. “Once you start, it is difficult to give up this profession,” he said.

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SSP Rao Anwar survives ‘suicide attack’ in Karachi

SSP Rao Anwar survives ‘suicide attack’ in Karachi

Posted on 17 January 2018 by Usama Hashmi - Total hits: 25

KARACHI: A key police officer, commonly known as ‘encounter specialist’, survived a suicide attack late on Tuesday night in Karachi.

“A suicide bomber hit his motorcycle with my armoured vehicle when my convoy reached Malir Cantt area via a link road. He blew himself up after he fell down on the road,” SSP Rao Anwar told reporters after the incident.

“His accomplices then opened fire on my convoy. My jawans retaliated from inside the APC [armoured personnel carrier] and killed the two attackers,” he added.
A few militants also reportedly managed to escape under the cover of fire while the police and Rangers were busy in conducting search operation in the area.

After the attack, extra contingent of police and Rangers reached the site, cordoned off the area and collected evidence. Experts from the bomb disposal squad also reached the site, where media was not allowed to enter.

Police said at least three militants ambushed the convoy. They said militants of different extremist outfits might be behind the attack. Later, Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal phoned Anwar and inquired after his health. He also sought a report on the incident from DIG East.

The SSP, who is posted in District Malir for around six years, has killed in various encounters over 150 militants of various banned outfits including Dai’sh, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Jamaatul Ahrar and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The police officer has faced similar attempts on his life in the past as well.

In 2012, five people were killed and several others were injured when Anwar’s ACP came under attack in a bomb blast while he was making his way to the Malir court.

In 2015, his convoy came under attack outside his house in Malir Cantt. All policemen, travelling in the convoy, had remained unhurt but all the attackers were killed in retaliatory fire.

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Pakistan, Saudi Arabia agree to simplify business visa issuance

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia agree to simplify business visa issuance

Posted on 17 January 2018 by Usama Hashmi - Total hits: 23

ISLAMABAD: The 11th session of the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) began on Tuesday with a renewed pledge to boost bilateral economic, investment and trade cooperation between the two countries.

High-ranked officials of various ministries of both countries also participated, with an aim to draw a future roadmap to cooperate with each other for economic development.

Special Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aitzaz Ahmad said Pakistan offered tremendous opportunities in various sectors of the economy, particularly in tourism which could be exploited for better financial developmental prospects. He expressed hope that the session would provide a ‘way-forward’ agenda to promote trade and investment.

Speaking on the occasion, Secretary for Foreign Trade Saudi Arabia Abdul Rehman bin Ahmad Al-Harbi said that Riyadh provided great investment opportunities, particularly in the infrastructure field. He was of the view that sessions like JMC should conclude with a tangible outcome to make this bilateral cooperation fruitful for both countries.

During the session, both sides agreed to simplify the procedure of business visa issuance in both countries besides rationalising the visa fee on reciprocal basis. They also agreed on activation of the Saudi-Pak Business Council to promote trade and investment on fast-track basis, while Pak-Saudi bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) also came under consideration.

The two sides agreed to introduce products through exhibitions in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, besides agreeing to identify and remove the obstacles that hinder smooth flow.

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Will PML-N and PTI take pages from TLP’s book to gain votes for the 2018 general election?

Will PML-N and PTI take pages from TLP’s book to gain votes for the 2018 general election?

Posted on 16 January 2018 by Usama Hashmi - Total hits: 46

Recently, the results of the by-election in PP-20 Chakwal were declared, giving the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) a comfortable victory. This particular by-election was important for the following three parties: PML-N, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP).

For PML-N, ever since Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification through Supreme Court’s (SC) landmark decision, a question which has constantly been discussed in the media is their political future. According to some, PML-N is in dire state after the disqualification and is facing harsh subsequent events which include Faizabad sit-in and former prime minister’s continuous confrontation with higher judiciary and establishment.

At the same time, some believe that despite problems, Nawaz is still popular and PML-N’s vote bank is still intact. Going into election 2018 (assuming these are held on time or held at all), it became imperative to gauge its electoral prowess and this by-election provided a useful means to do that.

Likewise, popularity of the main opposition party, PTI, which spearheaded the campaign against Nawaz, also needed to be assessed. On electronic and social media, the party definitely has a massive footprint and furthermore there is absolutely no doubt that today, PTI has more street power than any other political party, matching Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the latter’s heydays. Whether these obvious advantages translate into electoral majority in Pakistan, particularly Punjab, this by-election was an important way to gauge.

In addition, everyone was also interested in gauging the prospects of new right-wing party TLP, particularly after the recently concluded Faizabad sit-in. It has been claimed that the party would make a dent into PML-N’s vote bank in 2018 general election, thus benefiting PTI.

So how did the three parties fare in the by-election?

For PML-N, given the fact that it has been facing problems for some time now, this was a do or die situation. Moreover, this was the seat they have been winning for decades, barring the 2002 election. Local dynamics were apparently in their favour, which actually made it even more important for them to win. They had to win this seat and by a very comfortable margin to prove that they were not only intact as a party but also had a fighting chance in the upcoming general election. A loss in a “safe” seat would have spelled disaster for them and would have probably led to mass scale defections from their own MPs. Moreover, a defeat would have severely discouraged their supporters and also changed the decision-making calculus of the rational voter – one who votes after taking into account the winning prospects of a party – to a substantial margin.

Given that scenario, PML-N has done well as it not only retained its seat but actually increased its vote tally and that too in a by-election. In 2013 elections, it got a little over 62,000 votes, but in this election, it has managed to secure more than 75,000 votes. Given that politics is often local, this does not mean that PML-N is going to have a landslide victory in the upcoming election. However, it does show that it’s still well-entrenched in its own constituencies and if the local factors don’t change, the party is not going to witness a total annihilation. It has a fighting chance, unless something drastic happens before the elections. The disqualification of Nawaz apparently has not dented PML-N’s vote bank, at least in their rural and semi-urban strongholds like PP-20 Chakwal. It proves that where local factors favour them, they have a good chance.

For PTI, stakes were high though not as high as for PML-N. This was an election; they were expected to lose, though a win would have proven extremely beneficial for them. It was also an opportunity for them to know the extent of political capital they have gained due to their “victory” at the SC.

Although PTI has lost the election by a large margin, at the same time, compared to 2013, they have also increased their vote tally, which is a good sign for the party. The defeat by a large margin may also be partially due to local factors but the increase in number of votes shows that the party is catching up. It has now completely displaced PPP as the second major force in the Punjab province and shows that the future holds promising for them.

However, they need to work better at the local level and moreover expand their message beyond corruption of their rival politicians. This is because the impact of SC’s decision is perhaps there, but not to the extent that the party was hoping. Of course, for majority of the urban middle class supporters of PTI, corruption of Nawaz is the biggest and perhaps the only issue in Pakistan, but the reality is different outside their bubble. When masses vote, their considerations are often not always aligned with “educated” urbanites and that is why PTI has to talk about other issues also, instead of continuously repeating the same things regarding corruption of Nawaz.

The most frightening development in the last few months has been the rise of TLP. First time it contested the election in NA 120, it actually got more votes than PPP and Jamat-i-Islami (JI) combined. Although the party had no chance of winning this seat, all political pundits were interested in knowing how many votes it would gain in this election and whether it would actually dent PML-N’s vote bank.

The party has gotten more than 16,000 votes which for a nascent and frankly a fringe right-wing religious party is quite high. This is a dangerous development showing that religious extremism is selling and unfortunately, slowly becoming mainstream in the country.

This result, however, does not prove that TLP has dented PML-N’s vote bank, at least in this constituency. Nevertheless, this may not prove to be the case in other constituencies as PML-N has traditionally been the major recipient of the Barelvi votes in the past. That is why I fear that both PTI and PML-N might be tempted to use similar tactics in order to gain votes or at least prevent loss in their existing vote bank in the upcoming general election. In fact, PTI’s Jahangir Khan Tareen has already started to court certain Barelvi hardline scholars as evident from his following tweet:

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PAT all set to stage protest on Wednesday

PAT all set to stage protest on Wednesday

Posted on 16 January 2018 by Usama Hashmi - Total hits: 48

LAHORE: The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has finalised all arrangements for the demonstration to be held on Wednesday (tomorrow). The party leaders claim around 100,000 people will join the protest to seek justice for the Model Town incident.

“We have finalised all arrangements and will not bow down in front of the government,” said PAT Secretary General Khurram Nawaz Ghandapur.

Talking to The Express Tribune, he said that it would be a peaceful protest and assured no damage to public property. “The party has established a master control room at the PAT office in Model Town and formed 14 committees to look over the sit-in.
Mall Road’s Charring Cross has its own significance despite the fact that it is the political and business hub of the city. It is also a main thoroughfare of the metropolis from there thousands of vehicles pass over the 24 hours of a day. On the other hand, the Punjab government has already imposed Section 144 for any political gathering in this area.

Various political activists of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Muttahida Muslim League (MML), Ulam-e-Mushaikh Council, all factions of Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam (Except Fazalur Rehman group), Jamat Islami and Sunni Ittihad have assured their presence in the protest.

Replying to a question, Gandapur said that PAT, along with other parties, will hold the sit-in at any cost.”

Gandapur, in the meeting said this was an alliance of political parties to seek justice for the victims of the Model Town incident. “We do not make alliances for any political point-scoring or to destabilise the political process in the country.”

“The Model Town inquiry report by Justice Baqir Najafi proved that the chief minister and the law minister were instrumental in the killing of PAT workers,” he said. He added that they have made the alliance only to seek justice for the Model Town incident.

Gandapur said that for the last three year, PML-N ministers have been appearing on TV and denying their role in the Model Town tragedy. “ PAT has not deviated from his earlier stance with regards to seeking justice on the incident.”

“I greatly appreciate the families and relatives of the martyrs for their patience. The party workers who lost their lives in the firing incident were wealthy when it came to piety and virtue.” Gandapur believed Shehbaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders would be in jail soon.

Earlier, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Dr Tahirul Qadri announced that an agitation campaign would be launched across the country on January 17 by various like-minded opposition parties to force the Punjab chief minister and the law minister to tender resignations.

He said all members of the steering committee have agreed to launch a movement to overthrow the government.

Dr Qadri said that everyone knew who opened indiscriminate fire on innocent protesters. “We want justice. Dr Tauqir Shah (then principal secretary to the chief minister) was ordered to kill people in Model Town and later was appointed as an ambassador to keep mum over the issue.

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