SU VC pays glowing tribute to Javed Bhutto

Javed Bhutto was Socrates of Sindh. It was Sindh’s ambassador of love and peace to the world. People like Javed Bhutto stay immortal in the hearts of people on account of their intellectual contribution to society. Javed Bhutto’s death has created a void which will be hard to fill.

This was stated by VC-SU Prof. Dr. Fateh Muhammad Burfat while he addressed the condolence reference organized by SU Department of Philosophy to pay tribute to legendary lover and practitioner of philosophy, former chairman Department of Philosophy, University of Sindh Javed Ahmed Bhutto.

Dr. Burfat also reminisced fondly the days he spent with Bhutto as his batch mate at Karachi University and the pleasant memories of Bhutto’s visit to SU and his subsequent interaction with him at the eve of his lecture at Shaikh Ayaz auditorium last year.

Secretary SUTA and Javed Bhutto’s close associate Prof. Dr. Arfana Begum Mallah said she was one of those blessed individuals who profited hugely from Bhutto’s erudite company. Dr. Mallah, terming Bhutto a modest mystic, opined that Bhutto loved men regardless of their social status. She declared him essentially “a peoples’ person”.

Philosopher Jawaid Bhutto laid to rest in ancestral burial ground

HYDERABAD: Amid elegies sung by pall-bearers, the 64-year old intellectual and philosopher Jawaid Bhutto, who was shot dead in Washington DC on March 2, was laid to rest in a graveyard in Shikarpur district on Sunday. His funeral prayers were offered earlier at Faisal Mosque in Bath Island, Karachi, on Saturday night.

Writers, poets, intellectuals and civil society activists, including men and women, attended the burial rites at Chirangi graveyard which is the ancestral burial place of Bhutto. His wife Nafisa Hoodbhoy, who arrived in Pakistan along with his body on Saturday, also attended the rare burial event in which women also went to the graveyard.

“Jawaid can’t die,” she expressed this conviction in her brief comments in the graveyard. “He is as alive in my heart as he was before his death.” She regarded her husband as a truthful and courageous person who wanted justice for all.

“I was drawn towards him due to the truthfulness of his heart,” said Hoodbhoy, who first met Bhutto when she was a journalist working for daily Dawn. “Jawaid’s marriage to me was the luckiest thing to happen to me in my life.”

She said that the couple, who spent over 18 years in the United States of America, had planned on returning to Pakistan and that they had almost completed the preparations. “But then this incident happened.” According to her, the man who killed her husband was a convicted murderer who was released from prison due to his mental health condition.

She told that the local police did not inform the neighbourhood about his past criminal record. “We should have been informed who was living below our apartment.” Recalling the incident, Hoodbhoy said that she had sent her husband to bring things from the car parked on the road when he was shot from behind. “His death is like a bad dream from which you can’t wake up.”

Pakistani philosopher Jawaid Bhutto murdered in US
Pervez Mari, a contemporary, informed that Bhutto received his early education from Shikarpur and Sukkur. He became affiliated with the Maoist party during his college days in Sukkur. He later got enrolled in Bolan Medical College in Quetta during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government but discontinued his medical studies in less than two years and started studying philosophy at University of Karachi.

After completing his doctorate from Sofia University, Bulgaria, he started teaching philosophy as a lecturer at Sindh University. Bhutto came in the limelight when he started struggle to get justice for his sister Fouzia Bhutto who was killed by former Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Rahim Bux Jamali when she was a student of Nawabshah Medical College.

“We weren’t expecting Jawaid’s sudden death,” said Zahid Mangi. “He always supported Sindhi and Balochi movements for their rights.”

The life and death of Jawaid Bhutto

It was Sunday morning on March 3, 2019. The last day of the KLF was about to start when Dr Ayoub Shaikh posted on Facebook a most devastating piece of news for the friends and students of Jawaid Bhutto. He had been killed in broad daylight in the capital of the most advanced and powerful country of the world. Washington DC is not an unlikely place to get killed in the US. Somebody can murder you there, as they can do in Chicago or New York. But for Jawaid Bhutto it was an unlikely place.

This column is not an obituary, nor is it a lamentation of American law and order. Obituaries are normally written of people who are famous, notorious, or rich. Jawaid was none of these, but to his dozens of friends and hundreds of students he meant a lot. His life was a lesson for many, right from his decision to quit medical studies to his opting for philosophy as his vocation, and from socialism to Sufism as his preferred mode of thinking, Jawaid Bhutto carried a torch for many. A look at his life gives us a reflection of the past four decades both in and out of Pakistan.

In the early 1980s, Pakistan was under General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship. Five of the 11 years of his repressive rule had already seen a prime minister going to the gallows, and not hundreds but thousands of activists, democrats, journalists, intellectuals, and political leaders arrested, sentenced to imprisonment, or lashed in full public view. It was a reign of terror unleashed by General Ziaul Haq against all those who wanted to see Pakistan return to civilian rule and strived to make it a democratic and welfare state rather than a state based on religious and sectarian strife.

The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was in full swing but it was mostly confined to Sindh. Punjab, which had supported Z A Bhutto for at least 10 years and had seen PPP workers immolate themselves in protest against the death sentence to him, was now relatively calm. The press was in chains and under siege as described by Zamir Niazi, a journalist and writer who documented the establishment’s onslaught against freedom of expression. While the MRD struggle raged across Sindh, the rest of Pakistan was relatively calm with a graveyard silence imposed on it.

It is in this background that I met Jawaid Bhutto in Karachi in the early 1980s. He belonged to Shikarpur, went to Bolan Medical College to study medicine, soon got tired of it, and moved to Karachi University to study philosophy. I was still a teenager studying at the Government College of Technology (formerly Karachi Polytechnic Institute) near Sher Shah. Student politics in Karachi was dynamic and vibrant, with the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) supported by General Zia on the one side, and some liberal, left-wing and progressive student unions on the other. It was not a level playing field.

Jawaid Bhutto and I belonged to the Democratic Student Federation (DSF). This new DSF was sort of a reincarnation of the old DSF that was active in the 1950s and was led by progressive student leaders such as Dr Adeebul Hasan Rizvi, Dr Haroon Ahmed, Dr Muhammad Sarwar (father of journalist Beena Sarwar), Dr Rehman Hashmi and many others. This new DSF, in which Jawaid Bhutto and I met, was a nursery of progressive ideas for many of us. Jawaid Bhutto was almost ten years older than me and he served as a guide and mentor for countless young students.

Rarely does one come across a young man who is so immersed in knowledge of almost all social sciences, especially of philosophy. His room was always full of books in English, Sindhi and Urdu. He was not one of those who pretend to read a lot by displaying books and by dropping names of philosophers and writers. His understanding of political ideas, social theories and philosophical frameworks was immense and he was always ready to impart his knowledge to anyone who came to him and showed a willingness to learn. He was always open and smiling, even at the most stupid of questions.

As the MRD was not visible in Karachi, the students of the DSF and other progressive student outfits decided to stage protests, do wall chalking against the dictatorship, and even hijack and torch buses. Jawaid Bhutto was less of an activist and more of an intellectual with us. He and his brother Shahid Bhutto were also music lovers, composed poetry into songs and recited poetry – from Faiz Ahmed Faiz to Shaikh Ayaz. They were also active with us in the Dastak Theatre Group led by the legendary Aslam Azhar and Mansoor Saeed (father of actress Sania Saeed).

But the might of the dictatorship was not mild for anyone who dared to challenge the narrative of jihad in Afghanistan and promotion of sectarianism in Pakistan under the guise of Islamisation. The goons of the IJT were targeting all liberal and progressive student activists and the DSF was no exception. In these bleak times, many left the country. Some went to Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, India, Libya, Scandinavian countries, Soviet Union, and Syria. When Jawaid Bhutto and I left Pakistan and went to India, we were accompanied by Farhan Azmi, son of comrade Dr Aizaz Nazeer, and Khurram Khalid, son of comrade Saif Khalid.

Fehmida Riaz was already there and had been declared a traitor in Pakistan. The death of Fehmida Riaz last year in Lahore and the way she was paid homage and respect across the country proves that the label of traitor only enhances the public prestige of the victims of state repression and not the other way round. It was in India that Jawaid and I spent months together. His grasp of Indian art and culture, history, philosophy, politics and religions was impressive to say the least. Even there, he was always looking for books and engaged in heated discussions with our hosts, especially with Noor Zaheer, daughter of Sajjad Zaheer.

Ultimately, Jawaid went to Bulgaria, and I landed in Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University in Moscow. Our stay there relieved us of our romantic revolutionary zeal as we saw the socialist system in the full monty, warts and all. The crumbling of the socialist bloc prompted us to rethink the so-called universal applicability of Marxism that was our staple earlier. We came back to Pakistan almost at the same time in the late 1980s. He joined the University of Sindh as a lecturer in philosophy, and I was given a copywriting job in IAL/ Saatchi by Sarmad Ali (now MD of Jang Group).

In 1990, Jawaid had to suffer a major blow within his family when his sister, Fouzia Bhutto was murdered in her medical college hostel in Karachi. The murderer was Rahim Bux Jamali, a political leader who was arrested and spent some years in jail. After almost 20 years, Jamali was also murdered by someone on another account. It was during the murder trial of his sister that Jawaid came to know journalist Nafisa Hoodbhoy, sister of Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy. They got married in the mid-1990s. Jawaid continued to teach and enlighten his philosophy students for almost a decade.

Jawaid and Nafisa decided to move to the US in the late 1990s and settled in Washington DC. Jawaid kept reading and working in a rehab centre where he helped many drug addicts, mostly African-Americans. But he himself became a victim of a drug addict. Jawaid had complained of the rowdy behaviour of his neighbour; this enraged the man who shot Jawaid dead at 11am on March 2. Rest in peace Jawaid; you were needed in Pakistan more than in the US. Your dream for a democratic, progressive and secular Pakistan lives on.

The writer holds a PhD from the
University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.
Email: mnazir1964@yahoo.co.uk

If India and Pakistan have a ‘limited’ nuclear war, scientists say it could wreck Earth’s climate and trigger global famine

Deadly tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over in Kashmir, a disputed territory at the northern border of each country.

A regional conflict is worrisome enough, but climate scientists warn that if either country launches just a portion of its nuclear weapons, the situation might escalate into a global environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

On February 14, a suicide bomber killed at least 40 Indian troops in a convoy traveling through Kashmir. A militant group based in Pakistan called Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. India responded by launching airstrikes against its neighbor — the first in roughly 50 years — and Pakistan has said it shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured one of the pilots.

Both countries possess about 140 to 150 nuclear weapons. Though nuclear conflict is unlikely, Pakistani leaders have said their military is preparing for “all eventualities.” The country has also assembled its group responsible for making decisions on nuclear strikes.

“This is the premier nuclear flashpoint in the world,” Ben Rhodes, a political commentator, said on Wednesday’s episode of the “Pod Save the World” podcast.

For that reason, climate scientists have modeled how an exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries — what is technically called a limited regional nuclear war — might affect the world.

Though the explosions would be local, the ramifications would be global, that research concluded. The ozone layer could be crippled and Earth’s climate may cool for years, triggering crop and fishery losses that would result in what the researchers called a “global nuclear famine.”

“The danger of nuclear winter has been under-understood — poorly understood — by both policymakers and the public,” Michael Mills, a researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Business Insider. “It has reached a point where we found that nuclear weapons are largely unusable because of the global impacts.”

When a nuclear weapon explodes, its effects extend beyond the structure-toppling blast wave, blinding fireball, and mushroom cloud. Nuclear detonations close to the ground, for example, can spread radioactive debris called fallout for hundreds of miles.

But the most frightening effect is intense heat that can ignite structures for miles around. Those fires, if they occur in industrial areas or densely populated cities, can lead to a frightening phenomenon called a firestorm.
“These firestorms release many times the energy stored in nuclear weapons themselves,” Mills said. “They basically create their own weather and pull things into them, burning all of it.”

Mills helped model the outcome of an India-Pakistan nuclear war in a 2014 study. In that scenario, each country exchanges 50 weapons, less than half of its arsenal. Each of those weapons is capable of triggering a Hiroshima-size explosion, or about 15 kilotons’ worth of TNT.

The model suggested those explosions would release about 5 million tons of smoke into the air, triggering a decades-long nuclear winter.

The effects of this nuclear conflict would eliminate 20% to 50% of the ozone layer over populated areas. Surface temperatures would become colder than they’ve been for at least 1,000 years.

The bombs in the researchers’ scenario are about as powerful as the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, enough to devastate a city. But that’s far weaker than many weapons that exist today. The latest device North Korea tested was estimated to be about 10 times as powerful as Little Boy. The US and Russia each possess weapons 1,000 times as powerful.

Still, the number of weapons used is more important than strength, according to the calculations in this study.

Most of the smoke in the scenario the researchers considered would come from firestorms that would tear through buildings, vehicles, fuel depots, vegetation, and more. This smoke would rise through the troposphere (the atmospheric zone closest to the ground), and particles would then be deposited in a higher layer called the stratosphere. From there, tiny black-carbon aerosols could spread around the globe.

“The lifetime of a smoke particle in the stratosphere is about five years. In the troposphere, the lifetime is one week,” Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who worked on the study, told Business Insider.

“So in the stratosphere, the lifetime of smoke particles is much longer, which gives it 50 times the impact.”

The fine soot would cause the stratosphere, normally below freezing, to be dozens of degrees warmer than usual for five years. It would take two decades for conditions to return to normal.

This would cause ozone loss “on a scale never observed,” the study said. That ozone damage would consequently allow harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun to reach the ground, hurting crops and humans, harming ocean plankton, and affecting vulnerable species all over the planet.

But it gets worse: Earth’s ecosystems would also be threatened by suddenly colder temperatures.

Change in surface temperature (K) for (a) June to August and (b) December to February. Values are five- year seasonal averages.Earth’s Future/Michael J. Mills et al.

The fine black soot in the stratosphere would prevent some sun from reaching the ground. The researchers calculated that average temperatures around the world would drop by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the five years following the nuclear blasts.

In populated areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, changes could be more extreme (as illustrated in the graphic above). Winters there would be about 2.5 degrees colder and summers between 1 and 4 degrees colder, reducing critical growing seasons by 10 to 40 days. Expanded sea ice would also prolong the cooling process, since ice reflects sunlight away.

“It’d be cold and dark and dry on the ground, and that’d affect plants,” Robock said. “This is something everybody should be concerned about because of the potential global effects.”

The change in ocean temperatures could devastate sea life and fisheries that much of the world relies on for food. Such sudden blows to the food supply and the “ensuing panic” could cause “a global nuclear famine,” according to the study’s authors.

Temperatures wouldn’t return to normal for more than 25 years.

Robock is working on new models of nuclear-winter scenarios; his team was awarded a nearly $3 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to do so.

“You’d think the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies would fund this research, but they didn’t and had no interest,” he said.

Since his earlier modeling work, Robock said, the potential effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan have gotten worse. That’s because India and Pakistan now have more nuclear weapons, and their cities have grown.

“It’s about five times worse than what we’ve previously calculated,” he said.

Because of his intimate knowledge of the potential consequences, Robock advocates the reduction of nuclear arsenals around the world. He said he thinks Russia and the US — which has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons — are in a unique position to lead the way.

“Why don’t the US and Russia each get down to 200? That’s a first step,” Robock said.

“If President Trump wants the Nobel Peace Prize, he should get rid of land-based missiles, which are on hair-trigger alert, because we don’t need them,” he added. “That’s how he’ll get a peace prize — not by saying we have more than anyone else.”

Kevin Loria contributed reporting to a previous version of this article. Alex Lockie also contributed to this post.

India bombs targets inside Pakistan. India foreign secretary says jets hit Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Pakistan, but Islamabad denies casualties in air raids.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Indian fighter jets on Tuesday crossed into Pakistani territory, conducting what the foreign ministry in New Delhi termed a “non-military pre-emptive action” against armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), dramatically escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours weeks after a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistan reported the Indian airspace incursion, with military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor saying its air force jets were scrambling to respond, forcing the Indian aircraft to “release [their] payload in haste while escaping”.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, however, asserted that the jets had hit their target, and that “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated”.

“The government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “Hence this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp.”

C Uday Bhaskar, the director of the Society for Policy Studies based in New Delhi, said: “India has sent a very firm signal.”

“The fact that air power has been used for the first time against a terrorist target to my mind signalled to Pakistan that India is demonstrating resolve in terms of using military power, particularly air power,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with his top government officials in New Delhi where he was briefed about the predawn air attack.

Hours later, speaking at an election rally in the western state of Rajasthan, Modi said “the country is in safe hands”, avoiding direct reference to the air raids.

“I pledge on this soil … I will not let the country bend.”

Al Jazeera’s Faiz Jamil, reporting from New Delhi, said that the Indian government has been under a lot of pressure to act in the wake of the Kashmir attack.

“This attack was expected and one of the reasons it was delayed was the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the region,” Jamil said.

“But everyone did expect that this would somehow happen sometime soon, especially with [general] elections coming up in April.”

‘Uncalled-for aggression’

A special meeting of the National Security Committee chaired by the Prime Minister Imran Khan was held at his office on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and finance, the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee and other civil and military officials.

“Forum strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties. Once again, Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

“Forum concluded that India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”

Hassan Akbar, director at the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute think-tank, termed the attacks “a very provocative and aggressive action by India”.

“They did drop payload in various sectors including in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and this constitutes a serious violation of Pakistan’s airspace and sovereignty.”

Akbar said Pakistan’s response could range from hitting Indian artillery positions along the Line of Control to taking “a more escalatory position” and launching similar airstrikes on Indian military targets.

Sounds of aircraft
Local residents and journalists in Pakistan told Al Jazeera that the sounds of aircraft and an explosion were heard in the Jaba area of Mansehra district, located about 60km from the LoC – the de facto border that divides Indian- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought three of their four wars over Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of.

The air attacks on Tuesday appear to have taken place outside of Kashmir, at least 10km inside the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan’s military did not confirm the location of the incident, offering conflicting reports that at first placed it near the town of Balakot, about 12km from Jaba, and later claimed it occurred within the confines of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Tensions between the South Asian neighbours have been high since February 14, when a suicide attacker killed at least 42 Indian security personnel in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama.

Raids in Kashmir
Meanwhile, Indian security forces have conducted raids on the houses of four senior Kashmiri separatist leaders, including chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Yasin Malik.

Kashmiri civilians say they have been seeing heavy troop deployment, fuel shortages and frequent Indian security forces raids since the Pulwama attack.

“The cost of war might not be known in the TV studios, but we have already borne the brunt of the long conflict. Now, it seems the only option left for us is quick devastation or slow devastation,” said 65-year-old Bashir Ahmad Pal, a resident of Baramulla, a frontier town in northern Indian-administered Kashmir.

The joint group of separatist leaders have called for a two-day shutdown in Kashmir from February 27 to protest against the raids and “spree of arrests”.

India has threatened Pakistan with military action repeatedly since the February 14 blast, blaming it for “controlling” the attack. Pakistan-based armed group JeM had claimed the attack.

Pakistan denies any role in the attack, and last week Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asked India for “actionable intelligence” in order to take action against any JeM operatives in Pakistan.

Pakistan has dubbed it an act of aggression.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, speaking after the National Security Committee meeting, told reporters that the Indian incursion into Pakistani airspace lasted three minutes, beginning at 2.55am local time. He said that the aircraft remained near the LoC, and did not enter airspace outside of Kashmir.

“They left from near the LoC, because of our alertness and the alertness of the Pakistan Air force,” he said.
“Escalation is not our aim, nor will it be. We have always spoken of de-esclation and defusion. And repulsing aggression is our right,” he said.

Earlier Qureshi said Pakistan reserved “the right to a reasonable response and the right to self-defence”.
Additional reporting by Rifat Fareed from Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir

Four people, including two children, have been killed and seven others wounded in an exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s district of Kotli, officials said.

“So far, four people have been killed in the shelling,” Nasrullah Khan, a senior hospital official told Al Jazeera by telephone on Tuesday night.

Khan said the dead included a woman and her two children in Nakyal along the Line of Control (LoC), the heavily-militarised de facto border between India and Pakistan.

“An Indian mortar shell hit a house in Nakyal sector along the Line of Control that killed a mother, daughter and son,” local disaster management authority official Shariq Tariq told AFP news agency.

Another death was reported from Koiratta town in the semi-autonomous region, Khan said.

Pakistan says ‘will respond’ to Indian air raids on its territory

Meanwhile, Indian media reports said at least five of India’s soldiers were also wounded in cross-border firing along the LoC.

The civilian deaths in Pakistan-administered Kashmir came as India earlier on Tuesday said it had launched air raids near Balakot, a town 50km from the LoC inside Pakistan’s territory.

The raids followed a suicide attack earlier this month in India-administered Kashmir, which killed 42 Indian troops when a rebel rammed his explosives-laden car into a paramilitary convoy.

It was the deepest cross-border attack launched by India since the last of its three wars with Pakistan in 1971, when the two nations fought over Bangladesh’s independence.

But there were competing claims about the damage the air strikes caused.

The Indian government, facing a general election in April and May, said the strikes hit a training camp belonging to the armed group, Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which claimed the February 14 suicide attack.

India bombs targets inside Pakistan
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said “a very large number” of JeM rebels were killed, without specifying any number.

“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said.

Pakistan, which denies harbouring the JeM, also dismissed India’s claim, saying the Indian aircraft had dropped their bombs in a wooded area, causing no damage or casualties.

Islamabad called India’s air raids as “reckless and fictitious” and said it would respond in due course “at a time and place of its choosing”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan both summoned emergency meetings of top ministers after the attack.

Khan also convened a meeting for Wednesday of the National Command Authority, which oversees command and control of the country’s nuclear arsenal, the military said.

Modi had threatened a “jaw-breaking” response to the February 14 attack.

India vs Pakistan: Military strength and arsenal

But at an election rally on Tuesday, the Hindu nationalist leader did not directly mention the air raids. He paid tribute to the military and said: “I assure the nation that the country is in safe hands.”

The escalation between India and Pakistan has triggered international alarm, with China and the European Union calling for both sides to show restraint.

Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since the end of British colonial rule over the subcontinent in 1947. Both sides claim the territory in full.

Sikhs provide sanctuary to Kashmiris caught in ‘revenge’ attacks. Kashmiris targeted by right-wing mobs in India following the Pulwama attack say the Sikh community came to their rescue.

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – When 18-year-old Kashmiri student Shadab Ahmad and his friends were attacked by a mob in the north Indian state of Haryana last week, they prepared for the worst.

The group of four – all Kashmiris – were set upon by a gang and only survived after reaching their flat and barricading themselves inside.

The mob outside moved on, but the group in the apartment decided it was wiser for them to leave for a safer place once the opportunity arose.

Shadab and his friends were among dozens of Kashmiris targeted by mobs across India in the aftermath of the February 14 suicide bombing that killed 42 paramilitary troopers in India-administered Kashmir.

It was the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in the disputed region and immediately triggered revenge attacks against Kashmiris in mainland India.

“There were around seven of us Kashmiris. Another Kashmiri friend called us and asked us to come to Mohali in Punjab. He said it was relatively safe there. We boarded a cab and got there,” Shadab, a second-year engineering student, told Al Jazeera, using an alias because of concerns he may be identified.

At Mohali, Shadab and his friends were greeted with a pleasant surprise.

They were welcomed by volunteers from the Sikh community, who fed them, gave them shelter in a Sikh temple (called “gurudwara”) and arranged transport for them to go back to their homes.

“The Sikh volunteers gave us food and accommodation and arranged 13 vehicles for more than 100 of us to go home together,” Shadab said.

‘Our religion teaches humanity’
Thousands of Kashmiris, many of them students studying in universities and colleges across India, have found themselves the the target of hateful rhetoric.

Like Shadab, hundreds of students fled their colleges in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other Indian states and have returned to their homes in Kashmir.

Videos of mob attacks were shared widely on social media, prompting condemnation by the Indian National Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, who asked India to ensure the safety of common Kashmiris.

The Indian government said it was putting into place safeguards to ensure the safety of Kashmiris living outside of their home state.

But alongside accounts of mob violence, which are often associated with Hindu right-wing groups, are stories of ordinary Indians coming to the aid of Kashmiris caught up in the violence.

At the forefront were Sikh groups, such as the UK-based non-profit organisation, Khalsa Aid, which helped fleeing Kashmiri students by putting them up in temples and providing them food and accommodation.

“Our religion teaches us humanity,” Manpreet Singh, the director of Khalsa Aid in India, told Al Jazeera.

“Due to some bad elements who harassed these students, they should not feel alienated and they should believe that humanity is still alive. These young people are our future,” he added.

Khalsa Aid says its volunteers ensured the safe return of at least 300 Kashmiri Muslim students to their homes after the mob attacks.

“We continue to get distressed calls from the students and after verifying we try to help them,” Singh said.

As a token of gratitude for their help, many Kashmiri Muslims in India-administered Kashmir have offered discounts, free medical and legal consultations, and other freebies to the local Sikh community, who are a minority in the region.

In our religion, there is a strong message of humanity irrespective of religion. We promote humanity
Jagmohan Singh Raina, Kashmiri Sikh leader

Kamran Nisar, a Kashmiri in his early 20s who runs the Winterfell cafe at a tourist spot in the main city of Srinagar, has announced free meals for the Sikh community for a week.

“This is not providing meals for free but instead a small token of love, and a gesture of gratitude to the community that came to help us,” Kamran told Al Jazeera.

Jagmohan Singh Raina, a Sikh leader in Kashmir, told Al Jazeera that his community had a long history of helping those in need, no matter their background.

“In our religion, there is a strong message of humanity irrespective of religion. We promote humanity,” he said, adding: “It’s not for the first time, Sikh volunteers have also helped in Syria, Bangladesh, in Nepal.”

Concerns for safety
At his home in south Kashmir, Shadab now debates whether he should go back to his college, and many like him are asking the same question.

They say they left the Kashmir valley to escape violence but no do not feel safe being Kashmiri in Indian cities.

Salman Shaida who worked at a university in northern India said he was forced to resign after a student screenshotted a WhatsApp conversation with him about the situation in Kashmir.

“There was nothing anti-national in it,” he told Al Jazeera. “But I was attacked by a mob and I hid until the police arrived outside my apartment.

“I approached the head of the institution but instead of providing me protection, he forced me to sign my resignation.

“This happened because I am a Kashmiri. I do not know why I was punished when I could have been lynched.”
The pressures come not only from incidences of prejudice against Kashmiris.

One Kashmiri, named Numan, told Al Jazeera his family were pressuring him to quit his job in the city of Bangalore over fears of violence.

“My family does not want me to work there any more. The situation has horrified everyone,” he said.

Kashmir Militants Kill Again as Trouble Grows Between India and Pakistan

NEW DELHI — Militants in Kashmir struck again on Monday, killing an Indian Army major and at least three other soldiers just days after orchestrating a devastating bombing that left dozens of Indian security forces dead.
Fears are now rising that Kashmir, a disputed region that lies between India and its regional rival, Pakistan, could be sliding into an especially deadly phase again.
Diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan are breaking down; Kashmiri students are being rounded up and attacked; other young people have been charged with sedition for criticizing the Indian Army; and Indians are lashing out at Pakistani civilians, including Bollywood actors.
The recent violence in Kashmir — a majority Muslim region that is mostly controlled by India, a predominantly Hindu nation — has uncapped a wave of jingoism that is sweeping across India. The orange, white and green national flag is going up everywhere, and many people say they want revenge.
Pakistan has a long history of supporting militant groups in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. India has accused Pakistan of orchestrating the recent violence and vowed to retaliate. But India has few good military options, analysts say — and the public seems to sense this.
“There is a real sense of frustration and anger because Pakistan is in the picture,’’ said Gurcharan Das, an Indian writer. “A lot of Indians feel that India has failed with regard to Pakistan and that it has not been tough enough and has appeased Pakistan.’’
“But,’’ he added, “I don’t think anybody really wants a war.’’
The trouble on Monday started around 2 a.m. Under the cover of darkness, Indian soldiers in the Pulwama District of the Kashmir Valley surrounded a house that was thought to be a militant hide-out.
The militants opened fire on the approaching contingent, killing a major and three soldiers and critically wounding at least one other soldier. At least one civilian was killed in the crossfire.
Indian officials said the militants inside the house were members of Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Army of Muhammad, the separatist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing last week that killed at least 40 Indian soldiers — one of the deadliest attacks in the region in decades.
By midafternoon, Indian officials said two militants had been killed. But security forces were struggling to get closer to the house because hundreds of Kashmiri civilians were hurling rocks in an effort to shield the militants, who are widely seen in Kashmir as legitimate freedom fighters.
Pakistan has denied involvement in the recent bombing in Kashmir, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has promised “a befitting reply.”
Retaliation would carry huge risks, however. Both nations field nuclear arsenals, and regional dynamics are especially sensitive right now. United States officials have been calling on regional powers to support a peace plan for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, where Pakistan has long been a powerful influence.
But India is headed into major elections in the next few months, and Mr. Modi hardly wants to look weak.
Pakistan’s security services have a long history of supporting Kashmiri separatists and other militant groups, often using them as a proxy force against India. The United States considers the Army of Muhammad a terrorist organization; the group is officially banned in Pakistan, but Indian and American officials say it still operates there under different names.
The status of Kashmir has been disputed for decades, with India and Pakistan claiming large chunks of the mountainous region. Many of the militants in Kashmir are young men who have spent their entire lives in the Indian-controlled areas and have been shaped by years of heavy occupation by Indian troops. Security analysts say many militants still receive money and weapons from Pakistan.
On Thursday, a Kashmiri militant slammed a truck containing an unusually powerful bomb into a convoy of Indian troops moving across the Kashmir Valley. More than 40 paramilitary officers were killed, and Indian officials say they believe the bomb maker slipped in from Pakistan.
Since then, Indian security forces have been searching for accomplices, often going house to house.
Kashmiri civilians are also being targeted. At a university in Dehradun, someone used WhatsApp to threaten Kashmiri students, saying: “We will not leave you alive.’’
A board outside a mobile phone shop read: “Dogs are allowed, but Kashmiris are not allowed.”
Witnesses said that mobs swept through Dehradun, beating up Kashmiri students and forcing scores to flee.
“I am very scared,’’ said Junaid Ayub Rather, an engineering student who managed to hire a car to leave Dehradun.
He cited years of conflict and misery in Kashmir, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed over the decades as India, Pakistan and various militant groups have fought for control.
“Tell me,’’ Mr. Rather said, “have you ever heard of Kashmiris attacking or threatening civilians from other parts of the country who reside in Kashmir to avenge that?”
Diplomatically, the two countries are pulling apart. On Friday, India recalled its ambassador to Pakistan. On Monday, Pakistan did the same.
Across India, more than a dozen people have been arrested, lost their jobs or were expelled from school for writing social media posts that were seen as critical of the Indian military or interpreted by the authorities as siding with the attackers.
Surabhi Singh, a senior coordinator for the Center for Advocacy and Research, a nonprofit that works with marginalized communities, wrote a post on Facebook shortly after the bombing, criticizing the Indian Army’s record.
She wrote: “If Attack on Armed Soldiers is Cowardly … Attacking Unarmed Civilians including Hapless Children must be an Act of Bravery.’’
Over the weekend, she was fired.
“I was targeted,” said Ms. Singh, who has also worked as a translator for international news organizations, including The New York Times. “You’re not allowed to think freely anymore. You have to toe the line of the majority. It is jingoistic.”
Even actors are being punished. A number of Indian film organizations announced a boycott of Pakistani actors working in India’s film industry, by far the biggest in South Asia.
Suresh Shyamlal Gupta, the president of the All Indian Cine Workers Association, said India needed to attack Pakistan “from all sides.”
Jeffrey Gettleman reported from New Delhi, and Sameer Yasir from Srinagar, Kashmir. Suhasini Raj, Hari Kumar and Kai Schultz contributed reporting from New Delhi.

Kashmir attack: is terror group JeM pushing India and Pakistan to the brink of war?

The Trump administration has been bent on a military withdrawal from Afghanistan and leaning on Pakistan to pressure the Taliban in peace talks. Pakistan is hosting a meeting next week in Islamabad between the Taliban and the United States before the next round of negotiations in Qatar at the end of the month.

It is likely Pakistan may use this opportunity to convey a subtle message, as it has done in the past, that it can get away with periodic attacks in Kashmir.

JeM has for years sought to end India’s sovereign hold on Jammu and Kashmir.

Just two months after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the JeM attacked India’s parliament in New Delhi. Experts suggest the US asked India not to retaliate militarily as it would have affected its deployment across several bases in Pakistan for operations in Afghanistan and lead to Islamabad mobilising the army for its own mission instead of helping the US seal the Afghan border.

Now, Pakistan is also likely to reiterate to the US the pet narrative that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is a “home-grown disaffection” and cite reports that the car packed with bombs that killed Indian troops was driven by a local youth, Adil Ahmad Dar.

Overall, the situation highlights the strategic limitations of the US and other nations in forcing Pakistan to abandon militant groups. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the attack and strongly rejected insinuations it is linked to the incident.

China’s stance on Kashmir attack will test ties with India
It is also possible that with India-Pakistan relations in deep freeze, and the US in talks with the Taliban for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, the JeM wants to push India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It needs to be noted that the JeM, which has close links with the Taliban, carried out attacks inside Pakistan after former President Pervez Musharraf agreed to help the US military in the aftermath of September 11. Its attacks included two failed assassination bids on Musharaf in 2003. It was only later that the JeM was rehabilitated by Pakistan’s Army so it could be used against India.
The car bombing on February 14 was quite similar to those carried out by the Irish Republican Army or militants in Afghanistan or Iraq and is possibly a hint of things to come. While car bombs have been rare in Kashmir, it is not the first time the JeM has used them. It deployed them twice in 2000 in Srinagar, albeit with limited success.
In October 2001, JeM militants rammed the main gate of the Legislative Assembly building, killing 23.

Thwarting such attacks would not only require excellent intelligence on men and materials, but also mean restricting traffic movement and exhaustive checks of vehicles – disrupting everyday life in Jammu and Kashmir during a crucial election period.

India has already indicated it would stop all civilian traffic during the movement of troop convoys. The ruling BJP, claiming to be more nationalistic and “muscular” than other political parties, is facing tremendous pressure to take a tough line on Pakistan. It could again launch “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control but Pakistan is likely to be prepared.

The other option is an attack using combat aircraft or armed drones on militant training camps. However, the problem is that Masood Azhar is based around Bahawalpur – and any aerial attack across the international border could lead to escalation. An attack across the de facto border known as The Line of Control may abate public sentiment – but will not punish the actual culprits.

India warns of ‘befitting reply’ to Pakistan over Kashmir attack
There are many hawks in India who are recommending full-scale military action against Pakistan. But there are a few things to consider when contemplating full-scale war with Pakistan.

First, India lacks the conventional forces overmatch over Pakistan that would allow it full control over the escalation ladder. If the element of surprise fails, Indian troops could get bogged down and there is the potential for escalation.

Secondly, Pakistan’s fear of being quickly overwhelmed may encourage it to rapidly raise the stakes with nuclear threats.

Thirdly, keeping an Indian attack limited may also not be a priority of Pakistan. It would, on the contrary, be keen to escalate the conflict to a level where the threat of nuclear war becomes imminent and the international community is forced to intervene. This could allow Pakistan to “internationalise” the Kashmir conflict – it administers part of Jammu & Kashmir (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) but insists most residents want either independence or to be under Islamabad and not New Delhi’s control.

Lastly, the Pakistani army does retain the potential to wreak some limited amount of damage on the Indian side of the border and the economic and stability cost to the border states would be debilitating.

If the ruling BJP limits itself to economic and diplomatic measures only, it may suffer in elections. With opposition parties piling on pressure to act, the government may have to undertake some kind of punitive action – the outcome and benefits of which cannot be predicted. Right now, by indicating “the armed forces have been given full liberty to decide the time, place and mode of retribution”, the government seems to have outsourced the problem of a credible response to the armed forces.

Kuldip Singh is a retired Brigadier from the Indian Army. He was formerly head of the defence wing in the National Security Council Secretariat of India.

Remembering Siddiq Baloch

Siddiq Baloch had a personality that made a distinct impression on people who met him. He was a moving force, fiercely proud in the Baloch tradition. His inquiring mind led him to explore independently, never willing to take other people’s account of reality. It also made him a fine journalist in Pakistan’s English language newspaper, Dawn where he sought answers to the nation’s intractable problems.

I met Siddiq upon joining the Dawn Reporters Room in 1984. His rugged, warrior like appearance belied the sensitivity that lay underneath. Foremost in his personae was a commitment to seeing justice, prominently for the people of Baluchistan. Moreover, his energy and bustling humor brought life to the city desk where we reported to encapsulate the politics of an ever-burgeoning Karachi.

It was a period when Gen. Zia ul Haq had ushered in military rule and when journalists and management alike walked a tight rope of censorship. As an activist in the National Awami Party and a follower of Ghaus Baksh Bijenzo, Siddiq was imprisoned for five years by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto under the Hyderabad conspiracy case and freed only after Gen. Zia overthrew Bhutto’s government.

Notwithstanding the twists and turns in Pakistan’s politics, Siddiq kept up his unrelenting opposition to military rule. He was elected president of the Karachi Union of Journalists in 1981, at a critical juncture in history. Thereafter, he energetically worked around Gen. Zia’s draconian laws against the print media, which was then the primary source of news and information.

The MQM led by Altaf Hussain was just then consolidating its grip on Karachi. The city was divided on ethnic lines even as it burned during violence, strikes and curfew.

Driving into the Dawn newspaper compound, I would see Siddiq Baloch energetically revving up his motor bike, with our mild-mannered Sindhi colleague Ghulam Ali clutching the rear. The two would zoom off to expeditions to Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, Orangi Town and far flung areas of Karachi, where MQM was testing out its new-found strength.

By late evening the two returned triumphantly from the frontlines, with eye-witness accounts of a city that had turned into a battlefield.

Both these colleagues lived in Lyari, where the lines between Baloch and Sindhis have blurred, and which added to the sense of fraternity one saw between them.

Ghulam Ali, who sat next to me, popped a joke every few minutes. The jokes were often about martial law, and what the average person… the barber or the rickshaw driver had said about the khakis. It complemented Siddiq’s remarks, who kept up his cynical commentary on military rule.

Lighter moments with Ghulam Ali and Siddiq Baloch stand out in memory. It was a hot, muggy summer evening in the Dawn Reporters Room, when fans circulated the stale air. Sweat dribbled down my colleagues and the grumbling grew louder that we had been condemned to work in a non-ventilated cubby hole.

Suddenly, the door opened and Siddiq and Ghulam Ali entered shirtless – wearing only vests over trousers. I laughed with delight at the sight of the two of them. They looked so comic in their zeal to show the bosses our plight. Siddiq sent for a photographer, where he dutifully took pictures of the burly, sweaty men typing away without their shirts.

Word got out to the management that two planned to keep up their shirtless protest. But one day of high drama served the cause of propaganda. In due course, an air conditioner was installed in the cubby hole and we were eventually able to type away in peace.

Siddiq had a sense of camaraderie that made him engage with every colleague. In the evenings, our short statured bulky colleague, Sabihuddin Ghausi would enter the Reporters Room with aplomb – newspapers rolled in one hand and a cigar in the other. Invariably, Siddiq looked up from his typewriter and in his inimical style teased Ghausi with an affectionate slight:

“Here comes the drug mafia!”

Ghausi was unfazed. While Siddiq was getting into economic reporting, Ghausi was the soul of Dawn’s Economic and Business Review (EBR) section – ferreting news with his penetrating intellect and sense of integrity. Siddiq shared Ghausi’s serious economic bent, even as he focused on Balochistan’s political economy – of which he became a notable authority.

I would see Siddiq’s mischievous smile around our colleague, Hameed – known by his by-line H.A. Hamied. Our colleague distinguished himself from the `riff raff’ by his starched white shirts, suspenders and supercilious remarks.

Whenever I heard Hamied say, `Har Shakh pey Uloo Baitha Hai’ (there’s an owl on every branch) I knew he was heaping contempt on some character being discussed in the room. Straightforward to the core, Siddiq would join the banter. He jokingly called Hamied by his by-line, Humaiy-eed to make him sound refined.

Siddiq’s other friends from Lyari were Latif Baloch and Aleem Pathan – both of whom worked with him in the sub-editor’s room. In time, Latif Baloch also joined reporting, bringing the flair of the locality to which he and Siddiq belonged.

Fair skinned Aleem was a Pathan from Lyari, who walked slowly and smoked in deliberate fashion. He told me that foreign journalists mistook him for Italian. When Siddiq was not around, Aleem would transport Ghulam Ali on his motor bike to riot-stricken areas like Orangi town.

Even when the 1985 Mohajir Pathan riots had peaked in Orangi town, Ghulam Ali would return from the affected area with a new joke. Returning from a dangerous expedition with Aleem, Ghulam Ali narrated with his flair for drama:

“When I turned around and said Aleem… he put his finger to his lips and said, Shhh go no further.” Aleem could have been concerned that Ghulam Ali would blow his cover, that he was no foreigner!

As was his habit, Siddiq liked to chuckle at his buddy’s jokes – which changed according to the seasons.

It was this sense of camaraderie that kept us going under the toughest circumstances. Once, Siddiq walked into the Reporters Room and picked on me – the only young woman among middle aged male colleagues. He began to sound the alarm that the Taliban were coming…. they would drive me off my job and make me stay at home.

As was Siddiq’s nature, he joked so energetically that for a while I thought he was serious. But I stood my ground and returned his verbal fire, telling him that even Mohammed Bin Qasim soldiers could not put my family in purdah. Knowing that I took his banter as “friendly fire,” Siddiq withdrew his joking offensive.

On another occasion, Siddiq had just returned from Saddar where he had an altercation with a police man who tried to ticket him on the ground that his motor bike was “illegally parked.” Knowing this was a prelude to taking a bribe, he narrated to me… eyes flashing as they did when he was animated… what he had said to the policeman:

I told him, “The whole government is illegally parked, and you talk about my motorbike!”

Each week the editor of Dawn, Ahmed Ali Khan would summon our weekly meeting. The meetings were more akin to showing presence in an imperial court rather than to elicit debate. While other reporters generally spoke to please the editor, Siddiq spoke with the conviction that showed he was his own boss.

Once in a while Dawn’s editor asked Siddiq for an update on his signature pieces – among them the Saindak copper and gold mine project in Balochistan. Siddiq gave updates on how Saindak had fallen victim to bureaucratic wrangling with the Punjab. Listening to him over the years, to me the Saindak project began to sound as intractable as the problem of Kashmir.

With his fierce Baloch nationalism, Siddiq was not one to give up. As late as 2017, he returned to the issue of Saindak mines, then being run by the Chinese. In an article written in the newspaper, he owned, The Daily Balochistan Express, Siddiq expressed his life-long desire that the people of Balochistan should benefit from their own resources.

“The Federal Government should surrender all the revenue in favor of the Government of Balochistan for the simple reason that the Government had failed to develop the basic infrastructure for future development during the past 70 long years.”

While Siddiq did not live to see the Saindak mines benefit the Baloch people, he saw China help construct the road network around Gwadar Port in Balochistan. Having traveled on the roads that were built under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, he told me with a touch of sarcasm aimed at the Pakistan government.

“More roads have been constructed in these parts in the last few years than in 70 years of Pakistan’s existence.”

Being firmly grounded among his people, it was but natural that Siddiq would leave Dawn in 1989 and move to Balochistan to start his own newspaper. It was a risky decision, given the financial capital needed to survive in a province with a low literacy rate.

Indeed, Siddiq’s first newspaper publication `Sindh Express,’ did not survive. Undeterred, he pursued his passion and a few years later began publishing `The Balochistan Express.’

I glimpsed his sense of independence at the time he left Dawn. His parting words have stayed with me:

“I’ll eat grass but I won’t eat from the `seth’ (boss).”

Seated next to me, Ghulam Ali wistfully remembered Siddiq long after he had left. With his incorrigible sense of humor, he kept joking about how all the newspapers Siddiq had been publishing… `Sindh Express,’ `Balochistan Express,’ `English Weekly Express,’… sounded like “railway timetables.”

Being an office bearer of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Karachi Union of Journalists, Siddiq kept returning to Karachi to speak at events that promoted freedom of expression and a living wage for media workers.

After the events of September 11, 2001, I was living in the US when an international media organization, Internews sponsored me to visit the border areas of Afghanistan to report on the state of the media. My research into Balochistan’s media found numerous “dummy publications” out to get advertising revenue, and newspapers that “paid” reporters by merely giving them the organization’s visiting cards.

Despite the poverty levels and the terrorism that engulfed Balochistan because of the war in Afghanistan, Siddiq Baloch kept the flame of journalism alive. Apart from the English language newspaper, The Balochistan Express, he also became chief editor of the Urdu language Azadi newspaper.

In recent years while visiting Karachi from the US, I drove through Saddar when the light turned red. With my car stopped at the signal, lo and behold I saw Siddiq Baloch approaching on foot – with an entourage of young men behind him. Instinctively, I put out my hand and shook hands with him. His smile was just as energetic and encompassing, even though our paths had long since diverged.

In July 2016, Siddiq Baloch spoke at the launch of the expanded edition of my book `Aboard the Democracy Train,’ at the Quetta Press Club. The book had arrived late, and my ex colleague had not had the opportunity to read it. Still, he spoke generously about our years in Dawn – leaving me touched by his observations.

That was the last time I saw Siddiq Baloch. Despite being diagnosed with cancer in 2014, he had kept up a brave face. Indeed, when I expressed my concern to him about not being well, he brushed off any suggestion that his health was in decline.

Meanwhile, creeping commercialization of the electronic media also took a toll on Siddiq’s attempt to promote journalism. After 2001, investors with little experience of media had obtained TV licenses – hiring non-journalists and young women for infotainment rather than news. Their golden rule was to stay in the good books of the government.

With declining advertising revenues and a tighter military grip on news, the space shrank further for a print era journalist like Siddiq Baloch.

Indeed, Baloch nationalists who protested against the theft of their resources were still being `disappeared’ and their bodies found in wastelands. The military painted as `anti-state’ the voices that expressed concern at Baloch marginalization by China’s investment in their province.

Six months before he passed away, Siddiq sounded dejected about the government’s clampdown on the media.

It concerned me to hear Siddiq say that his right of expression was being muffled not only in print but in speech. Still, knowing him to be an adept political worker, I figured he was laying low until the wind blew over.

Despite his ailment, Siddiq was preparing his family members to run his newspapers. They would be equipped with the baton of the press that advocates the genuine rights of the people of Balochistan

In February 2018, Siddiq Baloch joined the list of my colleagues in the Dawn Reporters Room – Huzoor Ahmed Shah, Saghir Ahmed, H.A. Hamied, Aleem Pathan, Ghulam Ali, G.D. Ghauri, Ali Kabir, Shamim ur Rehman and Sabihuddin Ghausi – who departed the earth.

Among them, Siddiq Baloch stands out as a moving force who inspired a generation of journalists to write passionately about Pakistan… and his beloved province of Balochistan… at a time when the business of building the nation is still unfinished.

A Princess Vanishes. A Video Offers Alarming Clues

BEIRUT — The princess known as Sheikha Latifa had not left Dubai, the glittering emirate ruled by her father, in 18 years. Her requests to travel and study elsewhere had been denied. Her passport had been taken away. Her friends’ apartments were forbidden to her, her palace off-limits to them.

At 32, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum went nowhere without a watchful chauffeur.

“There’s no justice here,” she said in a video she secretly recorded last year. “Especially if you’re a female, your life is so disposable.”

So it was with a jolt of astonishment that her friends overseas read a WhatsApp message from her last March announcing that she had left Dubai “for good.”

“I have a very uncomfortable feeling,” one of them, an American sky diver named Chris Colwell, messaged back. “Is this real,” he added. “Where are you.”

“Free,” she responded. “And I’ll come see you soon.” She added a heart.

Her escape — planned over several years with the help of a Finnish capoeira trainer and a self-proclaimed French ex-spy — lasted less than a week.

Within a few days of setting sail on the Indian Ocean in the Frenchman’s yacht, bound for India and then the United States, the Sheikha went silent. She has not been seen since, except in a few photos released in December by her family, which says she is safely home after surviving what they said was a kidnapping.

Yet thanks to the video she made before fleeing, the sheikha’s face and voice have made their way around the world, drawing more than 2 million views on YouTube, spurring avid news coverage and marring Dubai’s image as a world capital of glitz and commerce like a graffiti tag.

Like the young women who have fled Saudi Arabia’s restrictive regime, Sheikha Latifa has made sure no one can forget how few freedoms are allotted to women in the Middle East’s most conservative societies — or how costly crossing Dubai’s ruler can be.

For all its megamalls, haute cuisine and dizzying skyscrapers, Dubai can flip at speed from international playground to repressive police state. It has drawn headlines in the West for detaining foreigners for holding hands in public and drinking alcohol without a license.

Last year, it was widely condemned for holding a British academic, Matthew Hedges, after accusing him of being a British spy. In recent years, the authorities have also intensified a crackdown on internal dissent.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re an ordinary Emirati citizen or a member of the royal family or an expat from a close ally like the U.K.,” said Hiba Zayadin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “If you’re harming that carefully tailored image,” she added, “you will face the consequences.”

Over the video’s 39 stark minutes, her voice composed and forceful, Sheikha Latifa described in fluent English her life of constricting privilege and stunted hopes. She hoped it would change if she could win political asylum in the United States.

“I don’t know how, how I’ll feel, just waking up in the morning and thinking, I can do whatever I want today,” she said. “That’ll be such a new, different feeling. It’ll be amazing.”

Fearing for her life if she was caught, she said she was recording the video in case she failed.

“They’re not going to take me back alive,” she said. “That’s not going to happen. If I don’t make it out alive, at least there’s this video.”

Sheikha Latifa first faced rigid restrictions after her sister’s failed escape attempt years earlier.

When she was 14, her older sister Shamsa escaped from her family’s security detail on a trip to England. Her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, owns a large estate and a prominent thoroughbred racing stable, Godolphin, there.

Hervé Jaubert, right, spoke at a news conference in London after Sheikha Latifa was captured aboard his yacht. He said he was helping her escape. Sheikha Latifa’s father said Mr. Jaubert had kidnapped her.

Hervé Jaubert, right, spoke at a news conference in London after Sheikha Latifa was captured aboard his yacht. He said he was helping her escape. Sheikha Latifa’s father said Mr. Jaubert had kidnapped her.

News reports at the time said Emirati personnel eventually tracked Shamsa to a street in Cambridge, forcing her into a car. When a Scotland Yard detective began investigating her case as a kidnapping, Dubai authorities refused to let him interview her. The case dead-ended there.

Sheikha Latifa said Shamsa, the only of 30 siblings to whom she was close, had been drugged into docility ever since, “basically like walking around with a cage following her.”

Horrified by Shamsa’s treatment, she said she tried to escape across the border to Oman. Retrieved almost immediately, she said she was held in solitary confinement for more than three years.

Emirati family law allows women to be punished for disobeying, and she said she was frequently pulled out of bed to be beaten, deprived of medical care and, until the final few months, even a toothbrush.

Even after she was released at 19, her life was defined by her family’s constraints as much as by its wealth.
She lived in a palace behind high walls, with 40 rooms spread over four wings — one for each female relative who lived there, said Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish woman who began training Sheikha Latifa in the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira in 2010. There were about 100 servants and an athletic compound with its own swimming pool and spa. Wherever the sheikha went, a Filipino maid went too.

But hers was a life of enforced, confined leisure. She could spend her money only on hobbies and sports including horseback riding and scuba diving, or on treating friends to lunch or manicures. She was not allowed to study medicine as she had wanted, friends said.

Nor could she travel, even to the next-door emirate of Abu Dhabi, one of seven city-states making up the United Arab Emirates. She pressed friends to describe every trip for her “like she was traveling with me,” said Stefania Martinengo, her friend and skydiving coach.

She was also barred from visiting any nonpublic places, even friends’ homes. An avid sky diver, she once parachuted secretly into an unapproved part of the city for 20 minutes of kayaking with Mr. Colwell.

When friends rode along in the boxy black Mercedes that often ferried her around, she put on headphones and sat in silence, refusing, in front of the driver, to say a word.

Skydiving was her chief distraction.

Dropping into the sky, “you’re equal to everyone,” Ms. Martinengo said. “You don’t talk, you’re just flying. I think she enjoyed being free in the sky.”

At first glance, she seemed neither fabulously wealthy nor wildly unhappy.

Introducing herself as Latifa, she was often taken for just another local woman. Under the all-covering abaya she wore in public, she usually dressed in T-shirts and athletic pants. She demurred her way out of most photos. She listened rather than talked. She never outright complained about her situation, friends said.

She never spoke about her family. Dubai’s dazzlingly wealthy flaunted their lives on Instagram; she was barely Googleable.

But she fantasized about running her own life. She talked about starting an Emirati skydiving team, hoping her father would let her travel to international competitions. A vegan who had become passionate about wellness and detox, she planned to invest in a yoga-and-juice center in Europe with Ms. Martinengo.

When Ms. Martinengo asked how she would help run the business without traveling, she said, “I have a feeling things might change.”

Almost no one realized until later that she had been planning to run for several years.

She first contacted Hervé Jaubert, whose website describes him as a former French intelligence officer and “no ordinary man,” who had once managed to escape Dubai in a small rubber boat by dressing as a woman.

She then enlisted Ms. Jauhiainen. At one point, they trained to dive and swim to Oman via underwater scooter.
Ms. Jauhiainen said Sheikha Latifa wanted to help other women who had been trapped in similar situations, and she wanted to get Shamsa out. If necessary, she thought she could work as a skydiving instructor.

To show that she was safe at home, the government of the United Arab Emirates distributed this picture showing Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, left, with Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, in December.

To show that she was safe at home, the government of the United Arab Emirates distributed this picture showing Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, left, with Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, in December.

“I’m ready to flip burgers or do anything as long as I have my freedom,” she told Ms. Jauhiainen.

A few days before they left, she sneaked out of a mall to record the video at Ms. Jauhiainen’s apartment.

“I’m feeling positive about the future,” she said. “I’m feeling like it’s the start of an adventure. It’s the start of me claiming my life, my freedom, freedom of choice.”

“I’m really looking forward to that,” she said.

The morning of the escape, Sheikha Latifa was driven to eat breakfast with Ms. Jauhiainen at a restaurant, as she often did. According to Ms. Jauhiainen, they got into her car and made for Oman, where they rode an inflatable raft, then Jet Skis, out to Mr. Jaubert’s yacht. A selfie they took in the car shows Sheikha Latifa grinning behind mirrored sunglasses, elated.

“We’re like Thelma and Louise,” Ms. Jauhiainen joked, referring to the 1991 American film.

“Don’t say that,” Sheikha Latifa protested. “It has a sad ending!”

As they sailed toward India on the evening of March 4, the women were getting ready for bed below decks when they heard loud noises. They locked themselves in the bathroom, but it filled with smoke. The only way out was up.

On deck, armed men whom Ms. Jauhiainen identified as Indian and Emirati pushed Mr. Jaubert, Ms. Jauhiainen and the Filipino crewmen to the ground, tying them up and beating them. They told Ms. Jauhiainen to take her last breath. Ms. Jauhiainen saw Sheikha Latifa on the ground, tied up but kicking, screaming that she wanted political asylum in India.

Before long, an Arabic-speaking man boarded. He made it clear, Ms. Jauhiainen said, that he had come to retrieve the sheikha.

“Just shoot me here,” she cried, Ms. Jauhiainen recalled. “Don’t take me back.”
Then she was gone.

Her father, Sheikh Mohammed, did not address her whereabouts until December, when the BBC was about to air a documentary. His office issued a statement saying that she was safe in Dubai, celebrating her 33rd birthday with family “in privacy and peace.” (Ms. Jauhiainen said the sheikha had not chosen to spend her birthday with family in years.)

The statement accused Mr. Jaubert, whom it called a “convicted criminal,” of kidnapping her for a $100 million ransom.

Sheikh Mohammed did not reply to a request for an interview sent to his office. The Emirati embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Things have only gotten stranger since.

On Christmas Eve, Dubai released the first public photos of Sheikha Latifa since her disappearance. They showed her sitting with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who confirmed that she had met the sheikha at her family’s request.

Ms. Robinson said Sheikha Latifa was safe with her family, but said she was receiving psychiatric care, calling her a “troubled young woman” with a “serious medical condition.”

“This is a family matter now,” Ms. Robinson said.

The sheikha’s advocates were taken aback that a respected human rights crusader had seemingly embraced Dubai’s official line. They disputed that she had a psychiatric condition, apart from any she might have developed because of imprisonment or drugging.

“I know 100 percent for sure that she doesn’t need mental care,” Ms. Martinengo said. “Maybe now, after all these treatments, but not before. How can you think that a person who’s been in prison for nine months wouldn’t seem troubled?”

Friends also found Sheikha Latifa’s appearance in the photos — slightly dazed, her eyes missing the camera — concerning.

With negative attention thickening around her, Ms. Robinson issued a statement saying that she had made her assessment “in good faith and to the best of my ability,” adding that the sheikha’s “vulnerability was apparent.”

By mid-January, a lawyer who had been working with activists left the sheikha’s case without explanation.

Several friends still in Dubai said they were too frightened to speak, while Mr. Jaubert abruptly stopped responding to requests to be interviewed for this article.

Sheikha Latifa had little doubt about what would happen to her.

“If you are watching this video, it’s not such a good thing,” she said in her video. “Either I’m dead, or I’m in a very, very, very bad situation.”