International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

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.

Faiz Day 2015 – Join Us!

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 Niqab issue – A CPPC Statement

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

Deaths in the Mediterranean

Photo credit: The Independent, UK

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.

How so?
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!

The Great Bengal Famine of 1943
(Event Date 12 September, 2015)

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.

Admission Free

Saturday, 12 September, 2015
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
3079 Danforth Avenue,
Toronto, ON M1L 1A8
(near Victoria Park subway)

Karamat Ali – Face 2 Face

Karamat Ali's Talks

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 Dehar –
(Event Date 22 August, 2015)

Bulleh Shah Day.ledger

Bulleh Shah Day

Doors Open: 6.30 p.m.
Program starts 7.00 p.m.

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’

Musical Program:
Also making an appearance: The brothers Baljit and Sumit Bains

For further information or 647-524-1891
Organized by: Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians

INDIA vs PAKISTAN • Religion and state in the two countries
(Event Date 24 July, 2015)

Religion and state in the two countries

DR. PRITAM SINGH, ‘Hindu Bias in India’s ‘Secular’ Constitution’
Dr Pritam Singh studied at Punjab University, Chandigarh; Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and the University of Oxford, and is currently a Professor of Economics at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK. His books on India have received critical acclaim as path breaking works of scholarship, and his research articles and reviews have appeared in various journals including Third World Quarterly, Contemporary South Asia, Economic and Political Weekly and the International Journal of Punjab Studies.

DR. TAHIR QAZI, ‘Religion and Pakistan’s Constitution’
Dr. Qazi, a medical doctor and Neurophysiologist and Rehabilitation specialist by profession, studied at Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore and has taught at the University of Calgary and the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is well known for his extensive knowledge and respected as an analyst and commentator due to his thoughtful and balanced views on a wide range of literary, social and political issues.

ELIZABETH HILL, ‘Opposing Religious Prejudice, Strengthening Secularism in Canada’
Nine times elected School Trustee: 1988-1997 (York Board); 1997-2006 (Toronto District School Board)

Friday, July 24; 6.30 – 8.30 p.m.
Rogers Theatre, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga
4141 Living Arts Drive, Mississauga, ON L5B 4B8

Free underground parking.
Admission free.
Donations to help meet costs gratefully accepted.

Organized by:
Indo-Canadian Workers Association
and Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians
For further information: 647-524-1891

NDP victory in Alberta

Statement of the Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians, May 19, 2015

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians congratulates the NDP on its victory in Alberta, a significant political development in the life of that province and Canada. This accomplishment, though a surprise, was built on the hard work of the current and past members of the NDP – and the fact that the ‘ordinary’ people of Alberta are looking for policies that will favour them rather than the corporations and the rich.

The CPPC stands for:

  • A secular society with separation of state and religion
  • Equality of all regardless of gender, ethnicity and belief
  • Peace – and against imperialist wars, Islamic fundamentalism and Islamophobia
  • Genuinely democratic governments of the people, by the people, for the people – not by the 1%!

We also believe that the natural resources of Canada should be owned and utilized in an environmentally responsible way in the interests of the people of Canada, first and foremost those of the First Nations.

The wealthy, and the mass media that represent their views has, predictably, come out in opposition to the victory of your party and the potential it has of implementing policies which include fairer taxation and improving the lives of working people. The NDP has an overwhelming majority in the legislature: we urge you to bring in proportional representation to make elections more fair than currently, something which we hope will be emulated by other provinces and at the federal level.

We hope that the NDP will represent its constituents in the best way possible – to promote progressive legislation and to oppose laws that only benefit the rich and otherwise privileged.

Hoping that the victory of the of the NDP in Alberta on May 5 turns out to be a May Day gift which the working people of that province – and the country – can really benefit from.

Mass murder of Ismailis by fundamentalist terrorists in Pakistan

Statement by Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians, May 15, 2015

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians offers its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the terrorist attack on May 13 in Karachi and to the religious community they belonged to, the Ismaili Muslims. We strongly condemn the perpetrators – religious fundamentalist terrorists who claim to be Muslims – of this cowardly attack on innocent and defenseless women and men.

The view expressed by some senior members of the armed and security forces and right-wing press that the attack was carried out by India is widely seen – and rejected – for what it is: a pathetic attempt to divert attention from the religious terrorist groups (jihadis in common parlance which carry out such heinous acts and maintaining the image of India as an arch-enemy to maintain their bloated budgets to combat that enemy.

In Pakistan violence against religious minorities has been used by vested interests to divert people’s attention from corrupt and authoritarian rule, exploitation, poverty, illiteracy, hunger, inadequate housing, water and sanitation and turn it against scapegoats, is almost as old as the country itself.

It was in the early fifties that the Ahmadiya community was targeted for which Maulana Maudoodi of the Jammat-e-Islami, amongst others, was identified as one of the key instigators, tried and condemned to death by hanging by the courts but later pardoned due to pressure from internal and external patrons.

After the Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus became the targets of violence and discrimination. In recent decades the Shia, too, have similarly suffered mass killings and the destruction of their places of worship; even sects within the Sunnis have not been spared by zealots and puritans claiming to uphold ‘pure’ Islamic values.

In Pakistan religion, rather than being a personal, private matter as had been envisaged by Jinnah and others, began to be fused with the state with the adoption of the ‘Objectives Resolution’ in 1949 – a melding greatly reinforced by the fundamentalist dictator General Zia-ul Haq (1977 – 1988).

Religious terrorist groups came into their own when Pakistan, regional reactionary countries like Saudi Arabia, allied with US-led imperialism, mounted their jihad against the April 1978 Saur Revolution in Afghanistan.

Since then religious fundamentalist terrorist groups, financed, armed and supported by influential sections of the Pakistan military and security apparatus, some civilian forces and the Saudi and Gulf kingdoms have been wreaking havoc in Pakistan.

(It should be noted that similar groups have been founded, armed and financed in the Middle East by the U.S. and its allies in the region).

The CPPC is of the view that the leaderships and members of the various religious minorities must publicly join the struggle for a secular Pakistan in which state and religion are separate and in which each citizen has equal rights regardless of religious beliefs. The law declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, those discriminating against women and religious minorities and the ‘Blasphemy Law’ should be completely removed from the constitution.

We reiterate that terrorist/fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan, Jundullah etc. must be vigorously fought against; any Pakistani military officer or civilian giving them support should be prosecuted and all assistance to them and fundamentalist schools from the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates should be ended.

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians stands for:

* A secular society with separation of state and religion
* Equality of all regardless of gender, ethnicity and belief
* Peace – and against imperialist wars, Islamic fundamentalism and Islamophobia
* Genuinely democratic governments of the people, by the people, for the people, not by the 1%!