Two-day ‘6th Think Tanks Forum of Islamic Countries’ will kick off on Saturday

Islamabad : For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the two-day ‘6th Think Tanks Forum of the Islamic Countries’ will be held in Islamabad, on March 7th-8th, under the joint auspices of the Pakistan-China Institute (PCI), the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM), the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the Pakistan’s Senate Committee on Defence. This was announced by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman Organizing Committee of the Think Tanks Forum.

The ‘Think Tanks Forum of the Islamic Countries’, with its Secretariat in Istanbul, is a biannual gathering of the representatives of think tanks from Muslim countries across the world. The Forum has a 9-member board of eminent persons, where Senator Mushahid Hussain, Chairman PCI and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, represents Pakistan, while other represented countries include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Malaysia and Sudan.

Previously held in Istanbul, Cairo, Baku, Baghdad and Tehran, the subject of this year’s forum is “Addressing Multi-Dimensional Security Challenges” and will focus on themes addressing security challenges (such as terrorism, extremism and cyber security); cooperation in defence, politics and economy; dialogue among Muslims to promote unity; as well as promoting a soft power image of Muslim countries as a whole.

The President of Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Mamnoon Hussain, has graciously accepted the invitation to address the Forum on the evening of the first day, while the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security, H.E. Mr. Sartaj Aziz, will address a special morning session on the second day.
​ In addition, Chairman of the Senate, Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari, will deliver the keynote address at the Closing Session of the Forum on 8th March

It’s Holi time in twin cities

RAWALPINDI: As young boys broke an earthen pot, commonly called Matki, hanging in the middle of Krishna Mandir’s courtyard with butter inside it, the priest (Pandit) shouted, ‘Holi Hay’.

54f8e6b8c0170Soon after, people at the temple started throwing colours at each other, marking Holi, the festival of colours.

Hindus celebrate the festival at the start of spring season to remember the victory of a devotee of Hindu god Vishnu against the Raja of Multan who led evil forces.

The Hindus of Rawalpindi and Islamabad marked the festival on Thursday at Krishna Mandir in Saddar which had been illuminated.

Despite the rain, a large number of Hindu families residing in the twin cities arrived at the temple.

The function, however, started two hours late as some families from Islamabad had requested it to be delayed due to the bad weather.

Traffic police had closed the roads from Chota Bazaar and Kola Centre to Krishna Mandir for security reasons. Police personnel frisked people before they were allowed to enter the temple.

The event commenced with Durga Puja (prayer), which was followed by special prayers for prosperity of Pakistan.

“Our country needs peace and harmony, and we send out a message to the enemy that all citizens stand united,” said Jag Mohan Arora, who led the Puja along with the priest, Jai Ram.

As per Hindu customs, a bonfire is created from cow dung which is lit up with desi ghee. “The fumes rising from the cow dung purifies us and keeps us protected from evil throughout the year,” said Jai Ram.

“We mostly use colours which are prepared from fruits and vegetables. These colours are not harmful to the skin,” said Sunil Gill, a participant at the festival.

Explaining the bonfire ritual, Jag Mohan Arora said Raja Hiranyakashipu who ruled Multan and other areas of northern Indian subcontinent considered himself a god.

But his son, Prahad, who was a devotee of Vishnu, refused to accept him as god.

Prahad even tried to save his people from his father’s cruelty and preached the message of Vishnu. This infuriated Raja Hiranyakashipu who planned to kill his son.

To execute his plan, he sought the help of his sister Holika. Both planned to burn Prahad to death, and Holika took the responsibility of luring Prahad to the flames.

A large fire was lit up, and Holika, who wore a cloak which had been gifted to her by the gods, took Prahad into it.

Believing that she would not be burnt, Holika entered the fire with Prahad.

But she died, while Prahad remained safe. The fire turned into colours, Jag Mohan Arora said.

Explaining the tradition of breaking the pot, Mr Arora said: “We break the earthen pot in memory of Lord Krishna who liked butter.

Krishna’s mother kept butter in the earthen pot and hanged it from the roof but he broke it and ate the butter.”

Pakistan wants to have a sustained relationship with US: Nisar

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Friday said that Pakistan wants to have a long term, sustained and multifaceted equation with the United States.

Nisar believes peace in the region is a shared objective of the US and Pakistan. -APP/file
Nisar believes peace in the region is a shared objective of the US and Pakistan. -APP/file

This was stated by the interior minister during his meeting with Mr Richard G. Olson, US Ambassador to Pakistan who called on Nisar at Punjab House today.

During the meeting, both diplomats discussed Pak-US bilateral relations, regional security situation and the recent visit of the interior minister to the US.

Nisar said that long term relations with the US would not only contribute towards bringing the two countries closer to each other but would also contribute significantly towards the promotion of regional peace and development.

The interior minister also said that peace in the region was a shared objective of the two countries and close collaboration and enhancing multifaceted cooperation between the two countries was of great significance for achieving shared goals.

Nisar also appreciated the White House initiative of convening a conference on countering extremism as he believed that the need to have serious discussions and deliberations on this issue was never as great as it is today.

The interior minister reiterated his call that strengthening local communities, winning the trust of mainstream peace-loving majority and building resilience in local communities against radicalization is need of the hour.

He maintained that by addressing the push factors that drive people towards extremism and focusing on education to promote tolerance could form the conceptual bedrock for the global action plan in dealing with violent extremism.

“US administration and President Obama’s stance is clear in differentiating between extremism and Islam,” the minister remarked.

Ambassador Olson said that the United States was committed to further strengthening its bilateral relations with Pakistan and enhancing cooperation on issues of mutual concern.

Lobbying begins with PPP, PML-N vying for Senate chairman slot

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) have started lobbying for the position of Senate chairman and both parties are in the process of contacting smaller parties as well as independent senators for support.

54f96038c84b8 (1)The jostling comes a day after elections were held for 104 seats of the Upper House of Parliament, the outcome of which has seen the ruling PML-N and main opposition PPP getting almost equal representation in the Senate over the next three years.

But despite winning the most seats, the PML-N will continue to remain a minority government in the Senate with 26 senators as the PPP has maintained its position as the single largest party with 27 senators. This means that the race for the coveted slots of chairman and deputy chairman will be hotly contested and the role of smaller parties cannot be underestimated.

Independent senator-elect from Balochistan Yousuf Badini on Friday spoke to former president and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and assured his full cooperation for the election of a chairman and a deputy chairman for the Senate.

Also read: Closer, messier Senate emerges after polls

Zardari thanked Badini for his support for the coming election to the post of Senate chairman which is scheduled to take place on March 12. A deputy speaker for the upper house will be elected on the same day and sources have said the position would likely be given to a candidate from Balochistan this time.

Badini’s support to the PPP comes as sources tell Dawn that the currently independent senator is expected to formally join the party in coming days.

Meanwhile, lobbying has also started within the newly-elected PPP senators vying for the position of Senate chairman.

Senior PPP leaders Abdul Rehman Malik, Farooq H Naek, Raza Rabbani and Aitzaz Ahsan have emerged as strong candidates for the position of chairman. However, a final decision in this regard would likely be made by Zardari during the coming week.

PPP, ANP secure seats in KP Assembly

Even though Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and coalition partners won all their seven seats in the Senate elections in the KP Assembly, a few members of the PTI and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) have cast votes against their party-nominated candidates which paved way for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) to grab one important seat each from the KP assembly.

Sources said that three PTI legislators deviated from the party’s policy and voted for PPP candidate Khan Zada Khan due to which he scored nine, including five PPP members, in the KP assembly.

The source claimed that an independent member Jamshed Khan also voted for Khanzada Khan which is why PPP managed to secure a seat from the KP Assembly with only five members.

Sources claimed that three PML-N members voted for Sitara Ayaz against their own woman candidate Shaheen Bibi. There are 16 PML-N members in the KP Assembly but Shaheen only secured 11 votes.

Two votes on women seats were rejected while three PML-N candidates voted for Sitara Ayaz, sources claimed.

Banned ASWJ ends protest as Islamabad police forms team to probe murders

SLAMABAD: The banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) marched from Lal Masjid to the Parliament House on Friday in protest of “target killings and kidnappings” of its representatives.

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An ASWJ protest in Islamabad. ─ AP/File

The proscribed outfit marched today to protest against what it called a recent surge in acts of violence against its representatives. The march was led by ASWJ President Ghulam Mustafa Baloch in light of which police cordoned off the street near the headquarters of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) with containers.

Following a dialogue with the Islamabad police, the outfit agreed to end its protest after an assurance was given that the murders of its workers would be probed. The additional deputy commission Islamabad, the SSP and other police officials said that a special investigation team to be led by SP Captain (retd) Ilyas was being formed to investigate the killings.

ASWJ, a reincarnation of the banned Sunni militant group Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), had been banned in Feb 2012.

Despite the ban, the ASWJ continues to operate in the country with religious conferences and demonstrations held in different cities from time to time and no apparent action from the authorities.

Last month, lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir led a protest against ASWJ’s activities, bringing attention to the government’s negligence towards following due process of law.

ASWJ representatives have been targeted in three incidents of sectarian violence this year. Two days ago, senior ASWJ leader Dr Mohammad Fayyaz Khan was gunned down in Karachi.

According to data compiled by the South Asian Terrorism Portal, 112 people have been killed and 140 injured in incidents of sectarian violence in Pakistan since the beginning of 2015.

The Sunni Supreme Council had, at the end of February, announced the launch of a protest movement against sectarian killings and terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the province-wide protest has not picked up impetus outside of KP.