Pakistan PM warns of war with India over disputed Kashmir

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Kahn speaks during a news conference held on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 24, 2019. (REUTERS/Yana Paskova)
Updated 25 September 2019

Pakistan PM warns of war with India over disputed Kashmir

  • The nuclear-armed rivals, which have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, have been locked in a worsening standoff since August 5
  • Khan, who raised Kashmir with world leaders this week, expressed no interest in meeting with Indian PM Modi

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan warned in blunt terms Tuesday of possible war between Pakistan and India over what he called a brutal Indian crackdown in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
The nuclear-armed rivals, which have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, have been locked in a worsening standoff since August 5, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who Khan called a “racist,” stripped the portion of Kashmir that India controls of its limited autonomy. Indian authorities imposed a sweeping military curfew and cut off residents from all communications and the Internet.
“For 50 days, the people of Kashmir have been locked down by 900,000 soldiers,” Khan said, describing mass arrests, non-functioning hospitals and “a total news blackout” in the region.
“Eight million people in an open jail is unprecedented in this day and age,” Khan said. “The biggest worry is what happens once the curfew is lifted? We fear with 900,000 soldiers there, there will be a massacre.”
India and Pakistan’s conflict over Kashmir dates to the late 1940s when they won independence from Britain. The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world, patrolled by soldiers and paramilitary police. Most Kashmiris resent the Indian troop presence. Modi has defended the Kashmir changes as freeing the territory from separatism, and his supporters welcomed the move.
US President Donald Trump said after an earlier meeting with Khan that it would be great if Modi and Khan can resolve their standoff over Kashmir.
But while Khan said he has raised Kashmir with world leaders this week, he expressed no interest in meeting with Modi.
“Unfortunately India today is governed by a racist, a Hindu supremacist,” Khan said. “They do not consider Muslims as equal citizens“
Indian UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin indicated in a recent interview that a meeting between Modi and Khan was unlikely: “There has to be an enabling environment before leaders meet.”
“Today the talk that is emanating from Pakistan in certainly not conducive to that enabling environment,” he said.
Khan also addressed claims by India’s army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat, that Pakistan has reactivated militant camps in Pakistan-held Kashmir and about 500 militants are waiting to infiltrate India. He didn’t provide any evidence to back his claims.
Khan called the claims “nonsense.”
“What possible benefit is Pakistan going to have now sending in terrorists when there are 900,000 security forces there? All that would happen is that there would be more oppression on the people of Kashmir,” he said.
Khan also said that he had begun, at the request of the US president, to mediate between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over a nuclear standoff. He provided no other details but said he had spoken to Rouhani on Monday after Trump asked Khan to “deescalate the situation.”
“We are trying our best,” he said.

 

 


A nonprofit group strives for zero hunger in Bangladesh

Updated 32 min 38 sec ago

A nonprofit group strives for zero hunger in Bangladesh

  • Bidyanondo provides food to needy under-12 children and men and women 60 years or older
  • In the last three years, Bidyanondo has distributed more than 2.5 million meal boxes to the needy

DHAKA: The time was 2:30 p.m. Small knots of children were loitering around the main street in the Mirpur area of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. Suddenly their faces lit up as a brightly painted rickshaw van appeared. The vehicle, bearing the words “Bidyanondo,” was stacked with food packets.

About 60 children from a nearby slum quickly formed a queue, each holding a one-taka coin that would enable them to buy their day’s lunch. For most, this was the only proper meal they could afford in the entire day.

“I come here every day so that my two granddaughters, Raina and Ranisa, don’t go hungry,” said Rajia Begum, 51, as she collected two food packets for the twins.

Volunteers distribute ‘one taka meal’ boxes to children in Dhaka’s Mirpur district. (Supplied photo)

“My son, who is a driver by profession, does not make enough to feed all six members of our family. So the children wait for their Bidyanondo meal every afternoon.”

A pioneer of the cheap-meal concept, Bidyanondo charges children under 12 as well as men and women older than 60 a token one taka ($1 is equivalent to 84 Bangladeshi taka) for each meal.

The volunteer organization, whose mission is “to foster philanthropy domestically and internationally by designing innovative programs,” spends 28 Bangladeshi taka to prepare the meal it gives away for one taka.

INNUMBERS

370,000 - Bidyanondo’s Facebook follower count

2,000 - Daily recipients of a Bidyanondo meal

84 - Bangladeshi taka equivalent to $1

300 - Total number of Bidyanondo volunteers

The “one taka meal” is the brainchild of 38-year-old Kishore Kumar Das, a Peru-based Bangladeshi who said it was his life’s dream to feed the poor in a way that, unlike begging, did not diminish their sense of self-worth.

“As a child, I had to face extreme poverty because my father could not manage to feed seven members of his family. I used to walk several miles to find free meals distributed at temples,” said Das, who is also the chief of volunteers at Bidyanondo.

“People from different corners of society take the same meal in a temple irrespective of class or caste. This unique idea inspired me to do something in the same way for underprivileged members of Bangladeshi society.”

Besides Dhaka, Bidyanondo — Bengali for “Learn for Fun” — operates the “one taka meal” program in four Bangladeshi cities: Chattogram, Narayanganj, Rajshahi and Rangpur. It also provides food, accommodation, education and medical care to about 300 residents of five orphanages.

“Charging one taka for a single meal is a symbolic approach through which we want to create a sense of ownership in the recipient’s mind,” said Salaman Khan, coordinator of Bidyanonodo’s Dhaka branch. “We want to convey a feeling that people are buying the food from us, not begging for it.”

Bidyanondo’s journey began in June 2016 when it began feeding 30 children in need in Chattogram, in southeastern Bangladesh.

Meals and food packets are prepared at the Bidyanondo Foundation office for distribution among Dhaka’s needy. 
(AN photo by Shehab Sumon,  Arab News)

Within a year, the group was providing food to 800 needy people every day. By 2018, the number of recipients had risen to 1,200. This year, almost 2,000 people every day across Bangladesh are receiving at least one square meal a day, thanks to Bidyanondo’s determination to “relieve the pain of hunger.”

“From cooking to distribution of food, we do everything by ourselves,” Khan told Arab News. “We have a special team of five or six members who cook. All of them are doing the job as volunteers.

“We operate our food program 365 days a year. Our volunteers work even on Eid days to feed needy people.”

Bidyanondo relies on crowdfunding for funds to support its programs.

“We have a Facebook group through which we organize the funding,” Khan said. “Bidyanondo has more than 370,000 followers on its Facebook page. All our benefactors are Bangladeshi and most prefer to remain unidentified.”

In the past three years, Bidyanondo has distributed more than 2.5 million meal boxes to children and older people in need. It has a workforce of 300 registered and non-registered volunteers across the country comprised mainly of students.

The 40 full-time staff members are stationed in the nonprofit’s offices across Bangladesh. A small number of housewives also volunteer at local branches of Bidyanondo.

The idea of selling cheap meals has spread to other countries through Bidyanondo’s network of overseas Bangladeshi volunteers. Das said that pilot programs are being tried out in Peru, Italy, Turkey, Nepal and India.

“Soon we are going to introduce a vending-machine system for food distribution so that recipients will not have to interact with any donor or volunteer. They will simply insert one taka into the machine, which will dispense a food packet in return,” Das told Arab News.

He said Bidyanondo welcomes assistance and contributions from aspiring philanthropists at home and abroad. The aim is not to make benefactors feel proud of donating or volunteering for social causes, but rather to make them realize that such activities are “part of the social responsibility” of the well-to-do.

Volunteers count one-taka coins generated from the distribution of meal packets. 
(Photo by Shehab Sumon,  Arab News)

“We want Bidyanondo to inspire others to commit some of their time and energy to social causes,” Das said. “If everyone does their bit, there will be no huge disparity in society.”

Among those doing their bit is Asma Akter, a 31-year-old physician employed in a government-run general hospital in Manikgonj, 40 km from Dhaka. On her days off, she turns up at Bidyanondo’s local branch to offer free medical consultations to the needy.

“I have my full-time government job for earning money. But I can’t have mental peace with the money,” she said. “Bidyanondo is a platform where I can look after the people who need my support the most.”

Akter added: “Words cannot express the kind of joy I get from performing this social service. It is a very good example of teamwork. Every day I learn from my colleagues here how to spend my time in the service of others.”

Back in Dhaka’s Mirpur district, among the children waiting to collect a meal box that afternoon was eight-year-old Mohammad Solaiman. “My father is a day laborer and mother works as domestic help,” he said.

“At noon they both are busy at work. With my two brothers, I collect food from the Bidyanondo rickshaw van every day. It is very convenient for us.”