Silence of world community pertaining to atrocities in IOK: President AJK

Muzaffarabad: Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan criticized the silence across the world pertaining to atrocities in Indian occupied Kashmir on Human Rights Day, which is being observed on Sunday.

While addressing a human rights event at Kashmir House, Masood Khan remarked that half a century has passed yet the United Nations has failed to fulfil its promise to give Kashmiris the right to self-determination.

India has been oppressing the people in IoK and world’s silence over the issue is condemnable. “Human rights are being continuously violated in IoK.” He remarked that the people of IoK have been rendered homeless in their own country.

Sardar Masood Khan said that Pakistan is incomplete without Kashmir while speaking in Washington. Kashmir has its identity rooted in Pakistan – the two are inseparable, said Sardar Masood.

Enemies hatching conspiracies against Pakistan. Ahsan Iqbal

Narowal: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday said that conspiracies are being hatched by enemies of Pakistan to halt the process of progress and development in the country.

Talking to in Narowal the minister said the entire nation will demonstrate extreme unity to foil nefarious designs of the forces engaged in destabilizing the country. He said that dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies before the senate election is tantamount to a conspiracy to induct an interim government for a long time. He said that nation will never forgive those political parties which will become part of this conspiracy.

The Interior Minister said that the PML-N government will ensure the continuity of democracy and timely holding of general elections in the country.

Veteran politician Javed Hashmi, PML-N to ‘fight together for democracy’

As rumours swirl about veteran politician Javed Hashmi rejoining the PML-N, Railways Minister Saad Rafique on Monday said the party and the political stalwart have agreed to “fight together for democracy”.

Rafique made the announcement at a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Hashmi, in which other senior PML-N officials also participated.

A source with knowledge of the meeting claimed that Hashmi had, during the meeting, agreed to rejoin the PML-N.

Rafique, however, when asked to confirm the development after the meeting, said: “In the next phase of discussions, this will also be announced.”

A PML-N leader in Multan told MEDIA that Rafique was on the forefront in convincing the leadership to bring the old guard back into the party fold.

“Rafique was the one who was very close to Hashmi when the latter chose to part ways with the Sharifs for not acknowledging his political struggle during the Musharraf era. Rafique also stayed in contact with Hashmi even during his two-and-a-half-year stay in the PTI,” he said, adding that Rafique told the leadership about the importance of Hashmi in the current political scenario as the PML-N was in dire need of true democrats like him.

A member of Rafique’s personal staff told MEDIA that the minister would return this correspondent’s queries on the matter but he did not.

Hashmi’s run with the PML-N

Hashmi, a former PML-N leader left the PML-N for Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in 2011, citing ideological similarities with the party. He stayed in the PTI for about two-and-a-half years.

Some PML-N leaders from Multan, including the city mayor, are against Hashmi’s comeback because it might affect their political clout in the area.

The politician from south Punjab gained a reputation of a brave politician because of his steadfast opposition to military rule.

Hashmi had grievances with the PML-N which contributed to his decision to leave the PML-N.

Sources had, at the time, said that the friction between Hashmi and the Sharifs began when the former ignored Nawaz Sharif’s advice to retain his National Assembly seat from Rawalpindi after the Feb 2008 elections, and instead decided to retain the seat he had won in his native Multan.

Ironically, Hashmi’s reputation as a bold man acted against him as the PML-N leadership baulked at his nomination for Leader of Opposition in National Assembly, fearing that it might not be helpful in rebuilding its relations with the military establishment. He was even described as a “compulsive agitator” by a PML-N office bearer.

The political stalwart has, even in recent times, stuck to his guns, calling for greater accountability for the army and judiciary.

Profile: Javed Hashmi, the perennial rebel

In early 1972, a group of youngsters barged into Governor House in Lahore.

They were agitated because two girls had been kidnapped in the city’s Samanabad neighbourhood, allegedly by a senior government functionary.

The crowd came face to face with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at the time the president of the republic, accompanied by a visiting British minister.

The leader of the protesters was one Javed Hashmi who had just won a hard-fought student union election at Punjab University with support from the Islami Jamiat Talaba.

Two years later, Hashmi made a similarly daring move while leading a protest against recognising Bangladesh as a separate state.

Lahore was then hosting a historic summit of the heads of state and government of Islamic countries.

He led a group of youngsters raising anti-government slogans and breached all security arrangements, to appear right in front of the motorcade of the then Saudi King Shah Faisal.

Given these two incidents, both narrated by Hashmi in his autobiography Haan Mein Baghi Hoon (‘Yes, I’m a rebel’), it is ironic that he disagreed with his own party’s chief.

How is Parliament House different from Governor House in Lahore as a symbol of the state, and how is the security cordon for a foreign dignitary less important than the one around Prime Minister House?

Hashmi could not care less about such distinctions or lack thereof as far as he believes in the cause.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and several other senior members of the ruling PML-N can testify as to how Hashmi would say whatever he wanted in party meetings without bothering about how it would affect his relationship with the party leadership.

He believed that he needed to challenge the high-handedness of the Bhutto regime through whatever means he could employ; he believed that Pakistan should not recognise Bangladesh, come what may.

He also narrates in his book how, a few months before the Islamic summit, he and his political associates successfully sabotaged Bhutto’s rally in Rawalpindi for the same reason.

So, clearly, he ceased to believe in what Imran Khan claimed to be trying to achieve. And this is in accordance with the ideology that Hashmi has come to espouse over the past four decades of being in politics.

That ideology is based on three foundations: the supremacy of electoral democracy over a military dictatorship, dissent, and utter disregard for the consequences of his political actions.

There are, however, some exceptions to these political rules that Hashmi has devised for himself.

The most obvious example of his courageous defence of civilian supremacy over military power is his arrest in 2003 on the accusation of trying to create divisions within the army.

For the next three and a half years, he remained behind bars, his trial taking place inside jail.

The Musharraf government put him on trial because of a letter that Hashmi had made public, reportedly written by some junior officials to highlight alleged corruption on the part of some senior members of the then military regime.

He never retracted from his stance, nor did he regret his decision to make the letter public.

Similarly, his readiness to work as the president of the PML-N after the Sharifs went into exile and many of their prominent lieutenants joined the Musharraf camp in the 2000s also proved his mettle for working for democracy at the most difficult of times.

Hashmi has built a strong reputation as the perennial rebel. He will speak his mind no matter what the circumstances or consequences.

He’s taken a confrontational stance whenever he has thought that those in authority aren’t doing the right thing, notwithstanding whether the people in authority were his own political bosses.

This is not to say that Hashmi has never made mistakes.

In 1978, at the age of 29, he became the youngest minister in General Ziaul Haq’s military cabinet.

He later regretted the decision; much space is taken up in his book describing how he was never comfortable in the ministry and how he wanted to resign as early as he could.

In 1993, his insistence on running in elections from his home constituency in Multan, while he was being offered safe seats from Lahore, resulted in Shah Mehmood Qureshi leaving Nawaz Sharif to join the PPP.

His biggest mistake, perhaps, is to have accepted money from an advocate named Yousuf.

The source of the money, Yousuf later claimed, was Younus Habib who, as the head of Mehran Bank, was tasked by intelligence operatives to finance the election campaign of certain anti-PPP politicians in 1990.

Hashmi made a serious effort in his autobiography to reiterate that he has never made any financial gain from his politics; he has, on television talk shows, claimed that he had received the money as a loan to set up business, and that he had returned it.

The allegations, however, refused to go away.

When he left the PML-N in Dec 2011, and joined the PTI, some of his old political colleagues alleged that he was disgruntled because the PML-N had refused to nominate one of his close relatives as an election candidate.

Some say he was unhappy because he wanted to become the leader of the opposition after the 2008 election but that post went to former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

His supporters say he deserved the slot because of his services to the party during the Musharraf regime, when very few politicians were willing to represent the PML-N at any political level.

Hashmi seems to have lost none of his political uprightness and the ability to call a spade, a spade.

He retains his ability to say what he believes in (as Imran Khan has found) and he continues to cherish democracy and the institutions it represents.

He also remains oblivious of the political consequences of his actions — nobody knows what his political future will be after his expulsion from the PTI.

It is difficult to imagine that he will rejoin the PML-N, of which he remains extremely critical.

The option of joining the PPP remains even more remote as he has opposed that party throughout his career.

On the first page of his book, Hashmi recalls a quote from Caliph Hazrat Umar: “When did you start enslaving people when their mothers delivered them as free [people]?” He remains as free as he ever was.

No political imperative can keep him captive to a party or an ideology that he cannot believe in. Khan should have known that before accepting Hashmi into his party.

US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Islamabad

US Defence Secretary James Mattis arrived in Islamabad on Monday for his first visit to the country since taking over the charge of the Pentagon.

Secretary Mattis was received by officials from the Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the US Embassy upon his arrival.

During his visit, Mattis is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Qamar Jawed Bajwa.

A day earlier, Secretary Mattis had told reporters that during his time in Islamabad he would look for “common grounds” between the America and Washington.

Is Lebanese eatery Café Beirut worth a shot? We find out

One of probably a couple of restaurants in town claiming to serve authentic Lebanese cuisine is Café Beirut.

Initially opening up on MM Alam Road two years ago, this subsidiary of L’auberge at Faletti’s Hotel finally decided to come out of hiding. From the basement of a shopping plaza they just recently moved to a new location in a congested service road on Gulberg’s Main Boulevard adding to the cluster of quite a few swanky eateries and cafés in the vicinity.

On most days, the hassle to find a parking spot in that tiny space with a couple of other restaurants right next door could be a major put-off, so one should be prepared. The two-storey restaurant follows a black and white theme on the spacious ground floor with Arabic lamps hanging from the ceiling adding some pop of colour, and a rooftop to relish this fantastic weather. Arabic instrumental music plays in the background creating an authentic ambience.

The menu is purely Lebanese instead of a hotchpotch with a smattering of Middle Eastern food. I was told that except for the meat that is procured locally, all major ingredients are imported from Lebanon and the UAE.

For starters, I ordered hummus with meat, a bowl of Fatoush salad and Cheese Fatayers. Though not a huge fan of hummus, this one was smooth and delicious, topped with little juicy chunks of lamb meat and pine nuts, garnished generously with parsley and accompanied with freshly prepared pitta bread. The plate was soon wiped clean.

The Fatoush was equally scrumptious with fresh veggie mixed with around eight kinds of Lebanese herbs and sumac powder for some tartness. This didn’t last too long either. The fatayers are a Middle Eastern savoury stuffed pastry. They were soft, boat-shaped flat bread pastries stuffed with three kinds of cheeses and topped with black cumin seeds, baked in a Lebanese oven especially brought in for the purpose. A satisfying start to a meal.

On to the main course, there was a mixed BBQ platter, lamb rice and grilled fish. The Beirut Mix Grill platter consisted of melt-in-the-mouth lamb skewers, mouth-watering lamb kabab, tender chicken Shish Taouk and chicken kabab served with three sauces and two pitta breads smeared with Lebanese chilli base. Priced around Rs1,500, it’s good enough for two diners, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The brown Lamb Ouzi Rice served with chunks of baked lamb meat and topped with pine nuts and peanuts is supposed to be served with a special ouzi sauce prepared in-house, but I didn’t get one for some reason, while the manager completely denied not serving it on being asked. The rice had a very homely feel to them, but a bit bland for my liking.

I did like the Grilled Hammour though. This was two pieces of grilled hammour fish topped with a beautiful, sour butter cream and served with sautéed vegetables with a generous portion of saffron rice on the side.

For dessert, I had the traditional kunafa. A thick base of slightly sweetened akkawi cheese topped with a wafer-thin layer of fried semolina and pistachio sprinkled over it. The best part about it was that it was light and not overtly sweet as most desserts tend to be. I wish I had appetite left for the baklava and date cake.

One must try the traditional, refreshing rose water drink, and top off the meal with a special tea made with Lebanese tea leaves, honey, cardamom, saffron and rose water. Might sound rich but is a beautiful culmination of a healthy, clean, mostly non-spicy meal.

While the appetisers were promising, the main course was generally above average – good food, but nothing exceptional with little or no attention paid to presentation, which is fair, I guess.

But even if the food is outstanding, unsatisfactory service spoils the whole experience. At most times one could sense a lack of management with orders getting delayed or some customers receiving incorrect orders or some of the dishes not even being available, and one would have to call out the waiters and remind them multiple times of what you’d asked for. If parking isn’t a serious issue, slow service with uninterested servers definitely is.