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Thar Coal: Six more Thari women join as Dump Truck Drivers

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Thar Coal - Six more Thari women join as Dump Truck Drivers - Sindh CourierNow 26 Thari women drivers are full time employees in Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company project

By GR Junejo

Islamkot, Tharparkar Sindh: Six more Thari women have joined the workforce as dump truck drivers after successfully completing rigorous training of six months at Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company’s project at Thar Coal Block-2.

Now 26 Thari women drivers are full time employees in Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company project. With induction of these talented and hardworking Thari women, the Company’s morning shift of transporting coal from mine to power plant has all women drivers, which is an inspiring milestone for company.

“Thar Foundation team is continuously striving to increase number of women in our projects,” a Thar Foundation press release said on Thursday.

The Women Dump Truck Driver Program is an acclaimed and breakthrough project that is empowering females in the remote region of Tharparkar. Through the Women Dump Truck Driving Program, the Foundation aims to provide rural females of Tharparkar an opportunity to broaden their livelihood by completing a training course to learn how to drive a dump truck in the Thar coal projects.

Through the program the Foundation aims to establish new generation of empowered females who have access to better socio-economic opportunities, financial inclusion and agency in an area that has historically been notorious for ranking low on major Human Development Indices.

Thar Foundation’s initiatives on women empowerment in Thar have been recognized by The Professionals Network and selected Thar Foundation for its prestigious CSR Award under this category. The award was received by Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, CEO Thar Foundation in a ceremony held in Karachi. Thar Foundation has trained and recruited a number of women to operate RO Plants, drive heavy dump trucks, teach in Thar Foundation schools and establish small businesses under livelihood grants program. More women will be part of project in 2021.

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Watch a video on Thari Women Dump Truck Drivers

27 SPSC-selected Inspectors receive offer letters

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27 SPSC-selected Inspectors receive offer letters- Sindh CourierChief Minister Murad Shah distributes letters; selected Inspectors include 4 female and four from minorities

Karachi: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah distributed offer letters among the 27 Inspectors for Investigation Wing of Karachi Division Police, selected through Sindh Public Service Commission, at a ceremony held at Chief Minister’s House on Wednesday.

The Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Maher briefing the chief minister said that out of 27 Inspectors (Investigation), four were female and four belonged to minorities. He added that overall 260 inspectors, including 81 legal, have been appointed through the public service commission in different phases.

27 SPSC-selected Inspectors receive offer letters- Sindh Courier-1Speaking on this occasion, Murad Shah said that the investigation always remained a weak section of the cases. “After thorough discussions and deliberations, we decided to evolve Investigation as a separate wing within the police department,” he said and added that in order to hire the most talented and energetic youngsters the selection process was assigned to Sindh Public Service Commission.

Chief Minister directed the Inspector General of Police to impart best professional training to the newly appointed inspectors and make them best investigators in the province. “Now, investigation has become a vast field to probe most complicated and sensitive cases on scientific methods,” he said and added he was sure the new and fresh addition in the investigation wing would improve investigation issues.

He said that the newly appointed inspectors have separate cadre for upward mobility. “The inspector appointed these days would reach to the rank of DIGs and assistant sub-inspector to the rank of SSPs,” he said and added they have long and clear careers.

Murad Shah said that all the positions of the investigation officers would get cost of investigation along with other allowances.

The program was attended by provincial ministers, Saeed Ghani, Imtiaz Shaikh, Syed Nasir Shah, Murtaza Wahab, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, IG Police Mushtaq Maher, ACS Home Usman Chachar, Adl Ig Karachi Ghulam Nabi Memon, DIG Police (Admin) Ameen Yousifzain. (PR)

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Only 36 of 77 RO Plants functional in Tando Allahyar District

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Commissioner Hyderabad Meeting - RO Plants Tando Allahyar- Sindh CourierConstruction of Cultural Complex and Sports Stadium awaits completion

Several maintenance and repair schemes suffer due to shortage of funds – Commissioner Abbas Baloch reviews performance of district administration

Hyderabad: Commissioner Hyderabad Division Muhammad Abbas Baloch was informed in a meeting on Wednesday that only 36 out of 77 Reverse Osmosis (RO) and Ultra Filtration Plants are functional in Tando Allahyar district.

The Commissioner had convened the meeting to review the performance of the district administration, attended by the Deputy Commissioner (DC), both Additional DCs, posted and under-training Assistant Commissioners and Mukhtiarkars of the different Talukas of district.

DC Rasheed Ahmed Zardari in his detailed presentation informed that there were 159 development schemes for the district but due to shortage of funds, the Maintenance & Repair (M&R) schemes have not been completed. He further told that the non-ADP schemes of Cultural Complex and Sports Stadium have not been completed and the concerned department has been requested for timely completion of the development work.

DC Zardari informed the Commissioner that 20 revenue cases were decided while 64 cases are in pending.

He said that 73 acres of forest land has been retrieved from the illegal occupants, 20 illegal petrol pumps were sealed and 13 persons involved in use and sale of Gutka and Mainpuri were arrested this month.

DC told that plantation of 2 lac trees has been planned in the district.

Commissioner Abbas Baloch while reviewing the performance said that the officers have to work extraordinarily to ensure the better facilities for public.

He urged for early disposal of pending matters particularly related to revenue, court cases and implementation on directions of higher authorities. He directed all the Assistant Commissioners to play their defined role to facilitate the public at large in their respective talukas and as administrators of local councils, they should initiate public welfare activities like sanitation, rehabilitation of parks, tree plantation and organizing healthy sport events in their jurisdiction.

“The public never forget the good officer, who served with one’s true spirit and interest as responsible public civil servant,” Commissioner Baloch added.

Commissioner said that due to COVID-19, the holding of open Katchehries, field visits and inspections were reduced, from which the actual feedback used to come from public to rate the performance of the officers. He added that the meetings of different districts administrations of the division have been schedule to review their performance.

Additional Commissioner-I Syed Sajjad Haider Shah, Deputy Director (P&D) Sanaullah Rind, Assistant Commissioner Revenue Hyderabad Division Ms. Surhan Aijaz Abro and other officials also attended the meeting.

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Sindh Courier

A Cobra, that did not call names…

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A Cobra that did not call names...A big cobra was the last one that came wriggling only to be caught and confined by its captor. The hissing noise ceased to be heard any more from around our house. Snakes don’t hiss anymore these days— they’re calling you babe, bro, sister!

By Nazarul Islam

Long time ago in the early fifties, I had accompanied Amma to my Mama’s house.  Theirs was one of the three spacious houses within a vast compound in a residential locality called, Shyam Bazaar. Flanking our house on one side was a sprawling kitchen garden awash with a variety of vegetables, tended by my mother. On the other side, there was a circular patch of land with undergrowth.

A vast grazing field was right opposite our house, providing a grazing field for the cattle. A common driveway from the road led to each of the houses. None of the three houses had electrical connection in those days.

In one of the spacious rooms in my house, there were two big wooden racks groaning with books, two revolving shelves packed with them and some split onto a table and chair, besides four steel trunks, each bursting with bundles of old clothes, family shin Raj, and prescriptions of my late, great grandfather written on old paper. He was the Hakim Saheb, a proud assistant of Hakim Ajmal Khan in Delhi.

A boy of nine and the oldest among my siblings, I loved to sleep cuddling up to my mother. That fateful hour, fumbling for my mom in the dead of night I woke up. She whispered to me that a loud swish from outside, had disturbed her slumber. She caught hold of a torchlight and focused its beam through the window, asking me to go back to sleep.

Curious to know what it was all about, I stood behind her and kept peeking outside. The sight of a mongoose hopping from side to side before a big cobra with its broad hood raised high, trying to attack sent a chill down my spine. Probably not so full-grown to stand against the snake in a fight, the mongoose bolted. Terror-stricken I had snuggled into my bedsheet.

The very next morning, my loving mother managed to get a snake charmer at our house. As the snake-charmer guy started playing enchanting music on his bamboo pipe, serpents of different sorts came wriggling towards him from all nooks and crannies around our house. A boy, maybe his assistant quite gingerly trapped them one by one in baskets. A sizeable big cobra appearing to be not less than seven feet long was the last one that came wriggling only to be caught and confined by its captor.

The hissing noise ceased to be heard any more from around our house!

Fast forward, the Lesson learned: Snakes don’t hiss anymore these days— they’re calling you babe, bro, sister & BFF

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About the Author

Nazarul IslamThe Bengal-born writer is a senior educationist based in USA. He writes for Sindh Courier, and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America.

8 Ansar al-Islam militants sentenced to death

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8 Ansar al-Islam militants sentenced to deathThe militants had hacked a publisher to death in October 2015 for publishing a book; author of book was also assassinated earlier

Other Ansar al-Islam members will be motivated to commit such crimes if the accused in this case are spared; they don’t deserve mercy – Dhaka Court

Dhaka: Eight activists of banned militant outfit Ansar al-Islam have been sentenced to death for murdering Jagriti Prokashony Publisher Foisal Arefin Dipon in October 2015.

Judge Md Majibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal in Dhaka declared the verdict at Wednesday noon.

The court also fined the eight convicts Tk50000 each.

The convicts are sacked army major Syed Ziaul Haque Zia; Akram Hossain alias Hasib; Abdus Sabur alias Abdus Samad alias Sujon; Khairul Islam alias Jamil alias Jisan; Sheikh Abdullah alias Jubayer alias Jayed; Abu Siddique Sohel alias Sajid alias Sihab; Mozammel Hossain alias Saimon; and Moinul Hasan Shamim alias Sifat alias Shamim alias Samir.

Of them, Zia and Akram are still on the run, while the other six are behind bars.

The six were also present in court on Wednesday when the judgment was handed down. They were brought to the court from Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj.

While the prosecution expressed satisfaction over the verdict, the defence said they would move the High Court against the judgment.

Plaintiff and Dipon’s wife Dr. Razia Rahman broke down in tears in court premises after hearing the verdict.

In its 53-page verdict, the court observed that other Ansar al-Islam members will be motivated to commit such crimes if the accused in this case are spared. Since the accused were involved in Dipon’s murder in an organized way as the militant group’s members, they must be given the same punishment.

They do not deserve any sympathy, said the court.

Only the death penalty will ensure justice and it will be an exemplary punishment, it observed. It will also bring peace of mind to Dipon’s family and will frighten and discourage others from committing such heinous crimes in the future.

Dipon was brutally hacked to death at the Jagriti Prokashony office in the capital’s Aziz Super Market on October 31, 2015.

Razia filed the murder case at Shahbagh police station two days later against unidentified assailants. Police pressed charges against the eight militants on November 15, 2018.

On October 13, 2019, the court indicted the eight in the case. Twenty-two out of 26 prosecution witnesses testified before the court during the trial.

Dipon’s publishing house had published a book written by writer-blogger Avijit Roy, who was also hacked to death by the militants on Dhaka University campus on February 26, 2015.

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Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune

Contemporary World Literature: Damascene Days (Travelogue)

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Contemporary World Literature -Damascene Days - Travelogue- Sindh CourierA Publishing and Distribution House in Jordan run by an artist and poet Mohammed al-Ameri, has very recently published ‘Damascene Days’, a travel book authored by eminent Egyptian novelist, poet, journalist and travelogue writer Ashraf Aboul-Yazid

Book Review

Travel Writing or Travelogue is an old canon of literature. The genre of travel literature deals with nature writing, adventure writing, exploration writing etc. Even certain forms of novel can have elements of travel writing in it. It’s a herculean job as one has to be an effective and keen observer to portray what he observes – the language, culture, social, political and economic aspects etc. during his journeys to different countries. The genre of travel writing has acquired the center of importance now rather than being in the periphery.

Eminent Egyptian novelist, poet and journalist Ashraf Aboul-Yazid is one of those writers who have contributed a lot in travel writing.

Lines & Shadows (Khotoot wa Zelal) – the Publishing and Distribution House in Jordan, run by the artist and poet Mohammed al-Ameri, has very recently published ‘Damascene Days’, a travel book authored by Ashraf Aboul-Yazid. The book is written in Arabic.

The book was designed by Al-Ameri, and its cover was drawn by the Syrian artist Essam Al-Shater. It included the author’s travels over more than a decade to different cities in Syria, including the capital, Aleppo, and Al-Qusayr – where the battle of Qadesh was fought – Raqqa and others.

In “Damascene Days” we read: “You immediately fall in love with River Asi (Orontes) the moment you walk along either of its banks. After a brief introduction, you even think it is extending its hands to embrace you as it winds here and there; giving way to you for the plains it cultivated with love fields and rose-gardens so that you may enjoy songs and branches. As far as you can see at the Syrian border along North Lebanon, you will stop to read some lines about the past, present and future on the surface of its water. “These borders are nowadays flamed with the burning bullets fired and mines planted by the Syrian authority forces to stop the fleeing Syrian towards a safer place. I was gazing at the streaming photos spread via news channels and feeling so sorry for that such place to suffer. But it reminded me with two things, the old wars and the first treaty for keeping peace,” writes Ashraf.

Sharing the observations, he writes, “For such a story I started my journey in the summer of 2004. My journey began with reading the inscriptions and reliefs on the walls of the Egyptian temples which depict the epic of Kadesh. I travelled further to reach the town of Al-Qusair, to the north of Damascus, near the Syro-Lebanese border, where I stopped to read the lessons of history and enjoy the gifts of geography. The peace and quiet around resembled the calm before the storm; but the storm had actually blown exactly 33 centuries ago, when Kadesh witnessed a fierce battle before it enjoyed real peace. Kings and Emperors at Queen Hatshepsut’s death, Egypt’s colonies in Syria had been devastated by battles of independence and separation from the parent kingdom, or joining or alliance with the kingdom of Mitanni, whose power extended from its center located beyond the Euphrates to the Syrian coast on the Mediterranean. So as Thutmose III came to the throne, he conducted seventeen campaigns in Syria alone starting from 1457 BC expelling the Mitannians beyond the Euphrates and restoring the Egyptian empire in the Old World. Soon afterwards, the kings of Babylon, Assyria and Hatti (in Asia Minor) were keen to be friendly with the triumphant queen and establish diplomatic relations with the victorious pharaoh.”

Ashraf DaliAshraf Aboul-Yazid was born in 1963. He is the Editor-in-Chief, THE SILK ROAD LITERATURE SERIES and has been working in Cultural Journalism for more than 30 years. He authored and translated 35 books. Some of his novels and poetry volumes have been translated into English, Spanish, Turkish, Persian, Korean, Malayalam, Sindhi and German books and anthologies. He was chosen the Man of Culture for the Year, 2012, Tatarstan, Russia. He won Manhae Prize in Literature, 2014, the Republic of Korea. He won the Arab Journalism Award in Culture, 2015, UAE. Currently he is the president of Asia Journalist Association (since April 2016).

His previous travel books included Sirat Musafer (A Traveler tale), Cairo, 2008, Qafilat Hekayat Maghrebeyyah (A Moroccan Tale Caravan), UAE, 2017, and “A River on Travel, Kuwait, 2015.

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Also Read: Importance of Travel Writing in Literature

The Future of US-Taliban Deal

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The Future of US-Taliban DealIt would be wise on the part of US President Biden to bring a closure to forlorn Afghan War which has proved to be America’s another Vietnam moment. The new president would have to abandon America’s so-called “Nation-Building” project.

Public Opinion

It’s been almost twenty years since the invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban regime by the United States and its allies. A peace agreement, now popularly known as the US-Taliban Peace Deal, was signed by the U.S. government and the Taliban on February 29, 2020, after more than a year of direct negotiations to end the War in Afghanistan that has turned out to be the longest war in U.S. history.

The agreement was signed following a seven-day reduction in violence, a period which required the Taliban to adhere to a “significant and nationwide” reduction in violence, and also required that U.S. and Afghan forces refrain from targeting Taliban-controlled areas of the country.

The deal is basically a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Under the agreement, “the United States will draw down U.S. forces to approximately 8,500 troops within 135 days and complete a full withdrawal within fourteen months. In return, the Taliban pledged to prevent territory under their control from being used by terrorist groups and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government in March 2020.”

Interestingly, it’s been seen as one of the most significant events of Donald Trump’s presidency; it definitely yielded him a lot of talking points during his presidential debates and electioneering.

Not lagging behind the suit was soon followed by his prime contender and, in one of his pre-election campaign essays, “Why America Must Lead Again: Rescuing U.S. Foreign Policy After Trump” published in March/April 2020 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. popularly known as Joe Biden – who has recently won one of the most controversial elections of American history against Donald Trump – had also alluded towards ending [America’s] unending wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have, according to him, cost the United States “untold blood and treasure”.

The U.S. forces have suffered more than 2,300 deaths and around 20,660 soldiers have been injured in action. Not to mention the conflict has cost U.S. nearly $778bn since 2001.

Surprisingly, the Taliban have recently expressed their willingness to honor the peace deal and said that its February 2020 agreement with the United States is meant to give American “invading” troops a “safe passage” out of Afghanistan, insisting the insurgent group expects President Joe Biden administration’s “review” of the deal document will not disrupt it.

Therefore, in all its likeness, sooner or later President Joe Biden would be compelled to convene a meeting of the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room and acknowledge a stark new reality that this war has brought more embarrassment to U.S. than any other American war.

It would be wise on his part if succeeds in bringing a closure to this forlorn war which has already proved to be America’s another Vietnam moment.

Given the plethora of domestic and foreign policy challenges left by his predecessor, Mr. President must not waste this opportunity by being indecisive or by wasting time, like his predecessors, in the hopes of transforming Afghanistan into a semblance of a democracy able to defend itself.

The new president would have to abandon America’s so-called “Nation-Building” project for, this time, the United States could not afford to walk away from this peace deal after twenty years of futile fighting!

Tarique Ahmed Abro

Hyderabad, Sindh

Turkish scientist develops a device to detect fake drugs

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Dr. Derya showing the device she has developed to detect fake drugs

Turkish scientist has developed an infrared device that can detect whether drugs are genuine within 20 seconds

Istanbul: Dr. Derya Cebeci, a former employee of the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), now fights fake drugs with her new invention. The chemistry expert, who returned to her native Turkey for research, developed an infrared device that can detect whether drugs are genuine within 20 seconds.

Cebeci hopes that her artificial intelligence-supported device that works on a cloud-based system will deal a blow to the fake drug market whose yearly global profit amounts to around $400 billion. She says fake drugs, from cough syrups containing antifreeze to cancer medications, claim 1 million lives every year globally and that her device, resembling a barcode scanner, can help curb this number. Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Tuesday, she said that the technology she developed could also be applied to inspect COVID-19 vaccines and drugs.

The device, developed by Cebeci’s biotechnology firm Portmera, based in a technology park in Istanbul, is scheduled to go into mass production this year. It does not require the user to have a medical background to take advantage of the device’s basic functions and does not involve the use of any chemicals. It works by acquiring data on a molecular level using infrared light as a chemical scanning tool. The data, processed with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, is used to determine the authenticity of the drug in question, deriving information from a cloud-based database.

The firm plans to deliver the devices to law enforcement agencies in Turkey, the Health Ministry, as well as Interpol, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the FDA and companies handling customs services.

Cebeci highlighted Turkey’s existing drug tracking system developed by the Health Ministry which ensures access to authentic drugs, but the problem still exists in the food, supplement and cosmetic products markets. “In other countries, like the United States, we see a rise in the production of fake antidepressants and sexual enhancement drugs. Overall, the most faked drug, or rather, drug ingredient, is sildenafil,” she said, referring to the medication sold under the name of Viagra and other brands and used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension. She says the counterfeit drugs issue touches every field within the health care system, giving the example of hydroxychloroquine, which when touted as an effective drug against the virus saw fake versions flooding the market. Other drugs are deemed “fake” for their lack of the “active substance.” “But this is actually the most innocuous form of fake drugs. Others use outright harmful substances like antifreeze, chalk powder and sibutramine,” she says. Cebeci warned that most products claiming to be dietary supplements online are fake and urged consumers not to buy the products online as they have not been approved by health authorities.

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Courtesy: Daily Sabah, Istanbul

Sheikh Mujib, Six Points, Tikka’s Salute and Lahore

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Sheikh Mujib - Six Points - Tikka’s Salute and LahoreAt Lahore airport on 23 February 1974, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced his new army chief Tikka Khan to Bangladesh’s leader Sheikh Mujib, General Tikka Khan saluted the man he had taken prisoner in the early hours of 26 March 1971

By Syed Badrul Ahsan

History in our part of the world has often had its interesting, even intriguing moments. And with Bangabandhu having played a vast role in the making of history in South Asia, the imagination cannot but go back to his links with certain periods in time, with certain places in the region.

Take a journey back in time, to February 1966. On the fifth day of the month, the future founder of independent Bangladesh took his initial step, in Lahore, toward liberating his Bengalis. Anyone who studies the antecedents of Lahore will certainly be aware of its significance through the moving chronicles of time. And what Bangabandhu was doing — and he was doing it three years before he transitioned from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to Bangabandhu and five years before he led his people to freedom — was informing the world of the new dimension which had come into his politics.

On 5 February 1966, that new dimension was the announcement of the Six Points, a broad outline of the autonomy the Bengali leader envisaged for the constituent provinces of Pakistan but specifically for East Bengal. It was in Lahore, therefore, that the road to Bengali liberation was taken. Imagine once again the playing out of history in Lahore. It was in March 1940 in Lahore that the All-India Muslim League adopted the resolution that has come to be known as the Lahore Resolution and the Pakistan Resolution. The seeds of Pakistan were thus sown in Lahore.

Observe the irony. Lahore was the place where the idea of Pakistan, indeed of a vivisection of India on the basis of a so-called two-nation theory took shape. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s politics had reached a point, in the opinion of his followers, where a state for Muslims needed to be carved out of a centuries-old India. And yet twenty six years later it was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was informing the world that Pakistan needed to reinvent itself through his Six Points. The bigger idea, as yet unstated, was that if that reinvention did not occur, the Six Points would coalesce into a single point, that of sovereignty for Pakistan’s eastern province.

The Six Points were a fresh new addition to the historical legacy that Lahore embodied. And if we go back once more in time, we will recall that in the early 1950s, as the authorities in East Bengal went around arresting or detaining a nascent political opposition to the central government based in Karachi, Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani advised the young Mujib to travel to Lahore and apprise Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy of the situation. The Moulana was anxious that the young, rising politician should not come into the government’s dragnet. Once in Lahore — and this is what Bangabandhu relates in his Unfinished Memoirs — Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was unable to meet Suhrawardy, who had gone out of town. The state of Mujib’s finances was not healthy. But when a few days later Suhrawardy returned to Lahore, circumstances took a turn for the better.

In Lahore in that long-ago season, Bangabandhu certainly did not envision the role the city would play in his political career. Or put it another way: no political segment in Lahore could imagine at that point of time the vision an older, more mature Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would demonstrate through his Six Points more than two decades down the line. Here was a city that had been witness to some of the most horrific of communal riots in the run-up to Partition, and even later. It was a city which the Mughals loved and which invaders in the past coveted beyond measure. It was in Lahore that the Indian National Congress had in 1930 held its grand convention.

Sum it all up thus about Lahore — in 1930 the Congress spoke of Indian independence; in 1940 the Muslim League voiced the argument for Pakistan; and in 1966 the Awami League articulated the demand for political and constitutional rights for the people who inhabited the eastern segment of what had once been a united and unified Bengal. And, yes, a year and a half after Bangabandhu announced his Six Points, Lahore would be the very place where the Pakistan People’s Party would take shape. That would be in November 1967.

After February 1966, Bangabandhu’s next visit to Lahore was in July 1970 as part of the election campaign of the Awami League. It was a tour he was undertaking in the four western provinces of Pakistan, the other cities being Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar. In the very heart of the Punjab, the province that dominated the country’s civil-military bureaucracy, Bangabandhu spelled out his vision of the future, let his audience know of the deprivation their compatriots in East Bengal had suffered through the twenty three years that had elapsed since August 1947.

It was a city that was home to the Nawabzada Nasrullahs, the SM Zafars, the Chaudhry Mohammad Alis, the Mumtaz Daultanas, indeed the entrenched political elite of Pakistan. And in that city the future Bangabandhu unequivocally mapped the road to a future Bangladesh. A year later, in 1971, as history would sadly be stood on its head, he would be a prisoner in solitary confinement in that province, the Punjab, even as soldiers with roots in it would be on a rampage in his beloved Bangladesh a thousand miles away.

A moment of absolute triumph for Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Lahore came in February 1974. A day after the Islamic Republic of Pakistan formally accorded recognition to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on 22 February, Bangabandhu and his team to the summit of Islamic heads of state and government proudly listened to the Pakistan army playing ‘Amar Shonar Bangla’ at Lahore airport. It was now playing Bangladesh’s national anthem, on its own soil, before a statesman.

At Lahore airport on 23 February 1974, supreme irony was again the centerpiece of the action when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced his new army chief Tikka Khan to Bangladesh’s leader. General Tikka Khan, combining in himself the dubious reputations of Butcher of Baluchistan and Butcher of Bengal, saluted the man he had taken prisoner in the early hours of 26 March 1971. It was an arrogant Tikka who had, a few days after that night of unmitigated horror, placed Bangabandhu on an aircraft and dispatched him, as a prisoner accused of treason, to Karachi and from there to incarceration in Punjab, to be tried before a military tribunal in camera. As he saluted Bangladesh’s Prime Minister and then extended his hand to him, Bangabandhu smiled. ‘Hello, Tikka’, he said — and then moved on.

In February, it is these consequential details of history that arise, to inform us of the story that was written in Lahore on the ethos of Bangladesh. In February 1966, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a significant political leader whose influence on Pakistani politics would begin to expand into a larger landscape. In February 1974 in Lahore, the state of Pakistan would welcome him as the founding father of a sovereign Bangladesh.

History throws up great men through the ages. In Bangabandhu’s instance, it was the great man himself who drew the contours of history and shaped them to his specifications. And Lahore was part of that story.

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Syed Badrul Ahsan is a writer and a columnist
Courtesy: Daily Sun, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Respecting the lost souls

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Respecting the lost souls
Japaneses Obon Festival: Remembering the loved ones by lighting the candles

All cultures have a tradition of reaching out to their loved ones, who are no more. Followers of the Buddhism, particularly in Japan have a unique way to memorialize their dead relatives.

By Nazarul Islam

All cultures have a tradition of reaching out to their loved ones, who are no more. Followers of the Buddhism, particularly in Japan have a unique way to memorialize their dead relatives.

Japanese believe that every autumn the spirits of fallen ancestors rise all across Japan. During this season of the dead spirits called Obon, the living commemorate them with offerings of food at altars, gather for festivals, and perform collective dances known as Bon Odori. People, all over Japan, stream back to their home towns to be with family and visit cemeteries to pay respects to their dead.

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Watch Video about Bon Odori Dance

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“Graves are a place to talk,” says Yamazaki Masako of Zenyuseki, a tombstone carvers’ trade association.

This year covid-19 has upset the routine. Japan’s viral caseload is relatively small, with just 1,148 total deaths, roughly America’s daily average. But a recent rise in infections, especially in big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, has spread the jitters. Citizens have been discouraged from travelling home and festivals have been cancelled. Family reunions have been held online to protect vulnerable elderly relatives.

Failure to visit grave-sites creates “a different type of stress—different from not being able to travel”, laments Ms. Yamazaki. To help relieve the pain of missing those obligations to the past, her association turned to futuristic technology. For ¥25,000 ($236) it will produce a virtual-reality experience to let you visit a grave from the comfort of your home. “You can see it from all directions, 360 degrees,” boasts Ms. Yamazaki. “It’s like you’re actually there.”

Others have hired proxies to visit the dead on their behalf. With Japan’s population ageing and urbanizing, online graveyard visits and tombstone-cleaning services were already doing brisk business. Goendo, one such firm, says inquiries and website traffic have doubled this year. Its agents can be hired to weed, pick up rubbish, wash tombstones, arrange flowers and light incense sticks—then live-stream it all for families by video-chat.

Respecting the lost souls - bon-odori dance
Japan: Bon Obori dance on Obon Festival

Kurashi no Market, an online services marketplace, reported that demand for grave visits in this year’s Obon had nearly tripled. Reviewers have raved. “I was so relieved to see the image of a beautifully cleaned grave with flowers,” wrote a client who had fretted about not being able to visit in the flesh.

Obon came to Japan via China along with Buddhism. The word is thought to derive from the Sanskrit Ullambana (deliverance from suffering). First practiced in Japan in the seventh century, the custom fused with local folk traditions. “At another tap of the drum, there begins a performance impossible to picture in words, something unimaginable, phantasmal—a dance, an astonishment,” wrote Lafcadio Hearn, a 19th-century chronicler of Japan, who was in awe of a Bon Odori.

“All together glide the right foot forward one pace, without lifting the sandal from the ground, and extend both hands to the right, with a strange floating motion and a smiling, mysterious obeisance.”

Today’s live-streamed moves might seem equally fallacious!

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About the Author

Nazarul IslamThe Bengal-born writer is a senior educationist based in USA. He writes for Sindh Courier, and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America.