The Failure of Anti-Terrorist, Social and Foreign Policies Leads to Terrorist Attacks:
Vice-Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA) David Pestieau on the
terrorist attacks in Brussels Airport and in the Brussels metro and on the latest antiterrorist draft bill in Belgium. (Interview was published in L’Humanité Dimanche, 31 March 2016)
HD. What state is Belgium in, more than one week after the terrorist attacks?
We are still living in the continuity of the attacks in Paris first, and now in Brussels. The difference lies in the targeted premises – the airport and the metro – with passengers, workers, persons on their way to work, mothers, fathers. The first reaction was solidarity and unity against terror, hatred and division. Commemorations, both spontaneous and organized, were held at the Brussels Stock Exchange, on the Brussels Airport tarmac, in Charleroi, in Antwerp and in cities across the country.
Everyone wanted to defend our peaceful co-existence against jihadists and racists. All victims, all standing as one, in spite of the attempts by the extreme right to disrupt this growing movement of unity. On Sunday 27 March, four hundred hooligans from the association ‘Casual United Belgium’ attempted to break the solidarity in the cosmopolitan town that is Brussels, where two-thirds of the population is of foreign origin. This incident raises many questions. How come that, right in the wake of the attacks, with all the security measures taken by the authorities, these 400 hooligans managed to go from Vilvoorde (a city just outside Brussels) to the Place de la Bourse (in the centre of Brussels) without there being any reaction. There has been a laissez-faire attitude vis-à-vis these “black-shirts” who were allowed to trample flowers, chant slogans against immigrants and perform the Nazi salute.
The society is experiencing an enormous sense of bewilderment. Both in Belgium and in the rest of Europe, the extreme-right is trying to capture the anger in order to sow terror and division.
HD. The investigation of the attacks reveals gross negligence on the part of the Belgian authorities. Is this worrisome, with new anti-terrorist bills on the horizon?
The hour of truth has come. We demand answers to the many questions raised as to the
management of the terrorist threat and the responsibility of the judiciary and the police. At different levels, we can see that the government has been unable to protect the population. Hence it is clear that its policies have to be challenged. And the PTB-PVDA members of parliament shall oppose any new anti-terrorist bill proposed by the Prime Minister who, nevertheless, wants to bring new legislation forward as early as March 29. Attention must be given to the existing mechanisms and the many shortcomings. It appears today that these attacks could have been prevented. The ministers have to provide answers as to what happened to the very clear warnings received on Ibrahim El Bakraoui and the Abdeslam brothers. Serious errors have been committed. Hence we formulated 37 precise questions to the Michel Government, for we cannot afford such shortcomings any more in the fight against terrorism.
HD. What are the measures called for by the government?
Prime Minister Charles Michel and his ministers are committed to mirroring the path chosen by the United States and most of the European countries like France: to gather and record as many data as possible on as many citizens as possible, while, at the same time, the Minister of Justice has confirmed at the committee of inquiry that his services are being over-stretched because of an overflow of information. Likewise, the battery of measures taken – the army on the streets, the revocation of citizenship, mass surveillance – is inefficient and may increase the burden of operational work at the expense of the tracking-down of the really dangerous subjects. Another point to emerge from these attacks is the lack of structural coordination between the different services: the federal police, the intelligence services and the local police.
HD. What are the avenues proposed by the PTB-PVDA?
At the criminal level, it is necessary to target the recruiters of future Syria fighters as well as other jihadists. We have to be in a position to thwart terrorist plots through targeted police work. We also have to develop prevention, and deradicalisation programmes… We have to invest in employment and in the fight against discrimination, Belgium being one of the European countries with the highest rate of discrimination in job recruitment. Europe should also stop its pro-war policy with NATO and cut off the financial, logistical and arms support to IS via its allies, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The terrorist attack targeting Christians in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban on Sunday March 27, killed about 70 innocent children, women and men and injured hundreds of others.
This is the latest incidence of fundamentalist hatred, and violence against religious minorities that started with attacks against Hindus in 1948 and Ahmedis in 1953 and became especially widespread after the dictator Gen. Zia seized power in 1977 and brought in strict Islamic laws.
Fundamentalism grew stronger when the US and many western governments, along with Pakistan and the Saudi and Gulf monarchies, helped strengthen the so-called mujahideen cause, in material ways and ideologically, to fight against the communist revolution in Afghanistan of April 1978.
The mujahideen took over Afghanistan in 1992 but were ousted by the Taliban in 1996 whose government was officially recognized by only three countries: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
From around the beginning of this century many fundamentalist organizations calling for the establishment of a ‘caliphate’ style of rule of 1,500 years ago based on sharia law, and with extremely discriminatory and violent views against religious minorities, such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Al-Qaida, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taeba have taken root in Pakistan.
Powerful elements in Pakistan’s security, army, civil service and political establishment have helped these groups grow to foment trouble in Afghanistan and India, and to divide people along sectarian lines to divert their attention from the real issues of underdevelopment and injustice facing them, and by the Saudi and Gulf kingdoms to spread their virulent form of religion.
Thousands of Shias, Ahmedis, Christians, Ismailis, Hindus and even members of some Sunni sects have been killed or injured by religious fanatics and their places of worship and property destroyed while Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours remain constantly strained.
What leads members of one religion to murder people of another? Simply put: their beliefs are pure and right, those who hold other beliefs are ‘wrong’ and ‘impure’ and their elimination is justified.
What can be done to change this state of affairs?
All activities of extremist groups and their social and charitable organizations must be strictly banned and their leaders and activists given exemplary punishments. The campaign against foreign and local terrorist organizations by the army is a start; the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri who murdered Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, in 2011 for ‘blasphemy’ is to be welcomed.
Any official of the army, the internal security agencies, the civil service or politician or civilian who has aided and abetted these terrorist groups or organizations related to them, must be exposed and severely punished.
Over the past three to four decades, Saudi Arabia has provided an estimated $100 billion to right-wing religious, political and educational institutions worldwide. All such funding must be stopped from entering Pakistan, and Canada for that matter, immediately and completely.
Pakistan’s 2016 budget allocates 781 billion rupees – 19% of the budget – to defence (more, if hidden aspects are taken into account), 71 billion on public education and only 20 billion on health. A big chunk goes to pay Pakistan’s foreign debt. The country should free itself of the dictates of the west and its lending agencies and significantly increase educational and employment opportunities so people don’t have to rely on madrassas for education and religious organizations for basic needs. Pakistan, India and Afghanistan need to have peaceful and mutually beneficial relations so that the huge sums presently spent on armies and armaments can be spent on providing roti, kapra aur makan (food, clothing and shelter) among other necessities to their peoples.
Canada’s defence spending, $14 billion in 2006 is now $20 billion. From 2001 to 2014 the Canadian government spent $18 billion in Afghanistan. Since 2011 it has provided $700 million to anti-government forces in Syria – with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey providing billions more resulting in tremendous destruction, dislocation and suffering in Syria. Canada must end taking part in wars against other countries and oppose Israel’s unjust treatment of the Palestinian people. It must significantly reduce its defence budget while increasing expenses on social needs such as childcare and education, healthcare and pensions etc.
Last, but not least, Pakistan must become a secular state. As Mr. Jinnah the founder of Pakistan stated to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947:
‘Everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs … no matter what his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges, and obligations.
You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state.’
State and religion should be separate; the results of the mixing them in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan confirms this view. In 1956, Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It should be renamed the People’s Republic of Pakistan – and aspire to become one. People should be free to believe and practice any religion they choose so long as it is not harmful to society or others. There should also be the freedom not to believe in religion. All discriminatory laws against religious minorities – and the one made Ahmadis non-Muslims – must be rescinded. The practice of registering the religion of citizens on passports must be done away with. Everyone, unequivocally, must be a completely equal citizen.
Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians
April 5, 2016
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March 21 is celebrated as the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
March 21 is also celebrated around the world as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. A day that marks the anniversary of the tragic events of Sharpeville, South Africa, when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid ‘pass laws’ in 1960.
This year, Toronto & York Region Labour Council in partnership with other regional labour councils across Ontario has come together for the first time to issue a joint public statement, with the support of the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Ontario Region of the Canadian Labour Congress. We feel that labour councils and their affiliated union locals have a strong and important role to play in our fight for good jobs and sustainable communities that are supported by strong public services and universally accessible social programs. We recognize that racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and all forms of prejudice, hate and discrimination ‘whether individual, cultural or systemic’ divide our communities and prevent our collective prosperity.
The Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians celebrates Faiz Day on November 21st to pay homage to the revolutionary Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, The program includes recitals, audio & video clippings and singing of his revolutionary and love poetry. For tickets, please contact Mr. Abbas Syed at 6475241891.
21 November, 2015 at 06:30 p.m.
Burnhamthorpe Community Centre,
1500 Gulledin Drive, Mississauga
(Burnhamthorpe Road East & Dixie Road)
The case of Zunera Ishaq, the 29-year old Muslim woman who came to Ontario from Pakistan in 2008 and refused to take part in a citizenship ceremony because she would have to show her face, is in the news again.
The Committee of Progressive Pakistani- Canadians is a secular organization. We stand for the full equality of women with men – in society, at work, in the home – and against subordinating, segregating and secluding women.
We oppose any one – parents, relatives, religious authorities – from compelling women and girls to wear the niqab, hijab (head-covering) or the burqa (head to toe covering which completely envelops women), or attire deemed to have been mandated by religion or traditions, against their wishes.
Yet, at the same time, we are opposed to the efforts of the Harper Conservatives to force Ms. Ishaq to remove her niqab for the citizenship ceremony.
We find offensive statements such as Mr. Harper’s that ‘it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment when they are committing to join the Canadian family’ or Minister of Defence, Jason Kenney’s that ‘I think it’s entirely reasonable for those thirty seconds, that someone proudly demonstrate their loyalty to Canada’.
In other words, wearing a niqab for the citizenship oath taking ceremony is un-Canadian and disloyal to Canada!
Similar comments were hurled at the first Sikh RCMP officer who wanted to wear his turban instead of the official hat upon being selected for the force.
No law or regulation requires that a woman has to take off her niqab for the ceremony; Ms. Ishaq’s identity is not in doubt, there is no security risk whatsoever in her wearing a niqab for her swearing in.
Are we, a progressive group, in favour of the niqab. No we are not. We are for the liberation of women – in the choice of clothes they want to wear, the life-styles they want to live, the husbands and partners they wish to have and the jobs they want to hold. We are simply saying that Ms. Ishaq and others are entitled to wear the clothes of their choice – so long as they meet genuine security requirements and don’t prevent them from performing their duties required by their employment.
On September 15 the Harper government’s rule banning face coverings at such ceremonies was found unlawful by the Federal Court of Appeal. Rather than submit to the Court’s ruling, the Harper government is taking the case to the Supreme Court.
Women in Canada make 70–80% of what men make; the absence of easily affordable, even free, day care (like public schools), poses a onerous burden on them and their families and is an obstacle in their entering the work-force; many of them live in or at poverty levels because of the high level of unemployment and the low minimum wage.
Messers Harper and Kenney of the Conservatives should work on these issues rather than pandering to their rightwing base by spreading anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments.
Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians September 25, 2015
The picture of the body of the little Syrian child lying dead face down in the Water after a boat carrying refugees sank in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe, has seared the consciousness of people across the globe.
Thousands of others from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan – and other African countries – making the same journey have perished in the same way.
Who is responsible?
Mainly the government of the United States and its western allies, including Canada.
For unleashing war, directly or indirectly, in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria, causing indescribable damage to human life, government and social infrastructure, agriculture, houses, hospitals and schools, employment in town and countryside – not in the interests of democracy or protecting human rights, but to gain back full control of the area for its oil and natural resources, a market for their goods and services, and for its strategic value.
The Saudi and the Gulf monarchies, long hating the republican, secular and non-capitalist oriented governments of Libya, Iraq and Syria, have assisted in this destruction by, among other things, financing and arming fundamentalist terrorist groups in these countries.
A popular international tribunal should be set up to see if Western and Arab leaders who have caused this death and destruction are guilty of violating international law and of crimes against humanity.
More generally, while poverty has been the lot of the masses in Africa and much of Asia for long, it has become exacerbated in recent decades due to increased globalization on terms greatly favourable to the west.
The absence of genuinely democratic governments in large parts of Asia and Africa has compounded the problem.
The wars, increased exploitation by western corporations, corrupt governments, fundamentalist violence, have made the lives of hundreds of millions wretched beyond measure. Hundreds of millions suffer from joblessness, hunger, homelessness; tens of millions are refugees or seek a better life in the west. While refugees seeking asylum in the west must be treated humanely and given asylum, it is the reasons for their mass exodus that must be addressed.
The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while professing great pain at seeing the picture of the dead child, is calling for more war in the region – the chief cause of the tragedy. All outside interference in Syria must stop forthwith and the Syrian government and opposition allowed to settle their differences themselves by negotiations.
The struggle against ISIS must be conducted in cooperation with the governments of Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Two other steps can be taken relatively speedily to provide relief to the people of the less developed world. World expenditure on armaments was over $1.5 trillion dollars in 2014 – a stupendous amount, which should be halved quickly, and the funds thus saved spent on social needs and development.
Total foreign aid from the richer to the poorer countries is a little short of $150 billion. It should be doubled – without any strings, at zero or nominal interest rates and for genuinely developmental projects – by increasing the taxes on multinationals and large corporations that, as is commonly known, pay hardly any or none at all.
Ending the unfair and unequal relations between the ‘north’ and the ‘south’, for fair trade that benefits all parties must be struggled for.
Last, but very importantly, genuinely democratic government representing the interests of the people, not the 1%, are urgently needed in the south as well as in the north!
An analysis of one of the most overlooked episodes of mass starvation in history and what we can learn from it today.
DR. JANAM MUKHERJEE is an Assistant Professor of History at Ryerson University in Toronto and author of ‘Hungry Bengal: War, Famine and the End of Empire’, an account of the impacts of hunger and economic violence on the people of undivided Bengal. Incorporating extensive archival and oral history research, Mukherjee draws structural links between war, famine, social upheaval and civil violence in mid-twentieth century Bengal.
Dr. Mukherjee will focus on the famine of 1943 and, additionally, will address hunger, famine and dislocation more broadly and draw links between the famine in 1943, that in 1974, and the “culture” of hunger that remains in Bengal today.
Ms. SUMANA GANGULY, the well-known and melodious singer, has kindly offered to perform a couple of songs for the occasion.
Saturday, 12 September, 2015
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
ACCESS POINT ON DANFORTH
3079 Danforth Avenue,
Toronto, ON M1L 1A8
(near Victoria Park subway)
Karamat Ali – Face 2 Face
You are invited to 2 events with Karamar Ali, a veteran trade unionist who played an important role in the Pakistani labour movement in the 1970s. He is the Executive Director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), which he helped found in the early 1980s.
Mr. Ali is equally known for his contributions to promote beneficial relations between Pakistan and India at both the grassroots and governmental levels.
A graduate of the University of Karachi and the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands, Mr. Ali has written extensively on labour and peace issues in academic journalsand the national media. He is one of the founding members of the Pakistan Peace Colaition, Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peaceand Democracy, and Convenor of the South Asian Labour Forum, Pakistan Chapter.
Please join us for 2 events with Karamat Ali:
Pakistan’s India Policy – Ending Hostility; Building Friendship
Saturday, 26 September, 2015
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Rogers Theatre, Living Arts Centre,
4141 Living Arts Road, Mississauga
Working People in Pakistan: Conditions and Standards of Living – an overview
Sunday, 27 September, 2015
3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Room 5-150, OISE
252 Bloor Street West, Toronto
(St. George subway, Bedford exit. Paid parking under building)
Bulleh Shah Day
SATURDAY, AUG 22
Doors Open: 6.30 p.m.
Program starts 7.00 p.m.
BURNHAMTHORPE COMMUNITY CENTRE
1500 Gulledin Road
(Burnhamthorpe Rd East, Dixie Road)
Food: $6.00 per plate (vegetarian only)
Ms. FOZIA TANVEER: ‘The Rebel Sufi’
Dr. WARAYAM SINGH SANDHU: ‘Message of secularism and religious tolerance in Bulleh Shah’
Also making an appearance: The brothers Baljit and Sumit Bains
For further information firstname.lastname@example.org or 647-524-1891
Organized by: Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians