India giving Babri Mosque site to Hindus reflects ‘bigotry’— Qureshi

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Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council on September 10, 2019 in Geneva. (AFP)
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Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel stand guard outside a mosque before Supreme Court's verdict on a disputed religious site in Ayodhya, in Mumbai, India on Nov. 9, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 November 2019

India giving Babri Mosque site to Hindus reflects ‘bigotry’— Qureshi

  • Court ruling comes as the old rivals prepare to open a border crossing for Indian pilgrims to visit a Sikh temple in Pakistan
  • The ruling ‘shreds the veneer of a secular India,’ says Pakistan’s foreign ministry

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Saturday the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a Hindu group in a long-running battle over a centuries old religious site also claimed by Muslims reflected the “bigoted ideology” of the Delhi government, state media reported.
The ruling paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, a proposal long supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.
The five-judge bench delivered a unanimous judgment, opting to hand over the plot of 2.77 acres of land to one of the Hindu groups that had staked a claim on it. The judge said a temple should be built on the disputed land by forming a trust under the control of the central government.
The ruling comes even as the old rivals prepared on Saturday to open the Kartarpur border crossing for Indian pilgrims to visit a Sikh temple, one of their most significant acts of cooperation in decades.
“The Foreign Minister [Shah Mahmood Qureshi] noted that Muslims are already under a lot of pressure in India and this decision of the Indian court will further increase pressure on them,” state-run radio Pakistan said in a report.
Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs also slammed the decision in a press statement on Saturday, and said the decision “shredded the veneer of a so-called secular India” by being unable to protect the rights of its minorities.
“The rising tide of extremist ideology in India, based on the belief of Hindu supremacy and exclusion, is a threat to regional peace and stability,” the statement said.

Police officers stand guard in a street outside Jama Masjid, before Supreme Court's verdict on a disputed religious site claimed by both majority Hindus and Muslim in Ayodhya, in the old quarters of Delhi, India on Nov. 9, 2019. (REUTERS)

For more than seven decades, right-wing Hindu campaigners have been pushing to build a temple on the site, which they believe was the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
They say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built what was known as the Babri Mosque there in 1528.
In 1992, the mosque was razed to the ground by a Hindu mob. Its destruction triggered religious riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed across the country and led to a series of court battles with various groups staking their claim to the site.
In a post on his personal Twitter account. Pakistani military spokesman General Asif Ghafoor said the Indian court verdict showed the “true ugly face of extremist India.”
Pakistani Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry called the ruling “shameful, disgusting, illegal and immoral” on Twitter and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari compared it to Pakistan’s decision to green light the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor.
“The contrast between the Indian SC’s verdict on Babri Mosque strengthening the Hindutva creed and Pakistan’s opening of the Kartarpur Corridor — both on the same day — could not be more stark!” Mazari posted on Twitter.
The border crossing pact between the nuclear-armed neighbors allows visa-free access from India to the Pakistani town of Kartarpur, home to a temple that marks the site where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, died.
Hundreds of Indian delegates including members of the opposition crossed the border for the Saturday ceremony, though Pakistani officials familiar with the guest list said there was no representation from India’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Despite good news on the border crossing, Pakistan’s FM Qureshi said relations had not been as strained as they are now since the two sides battled on their border for months in the northern area of Kargil in 1999.
“There is no back-channel. We’ve had wars, things have been worse than this, but things are bad,” Qureshi told Reuters in an interview in Lahore late on Friday. “For any sane mind, it is concerning.”

Pakistan begins anti-polio drive to vaccinate 30 mln children 

Updated 26 October 2020

Pakistan begins anti-polio drive to vaccinate 30 mln children 

  • More than 200,000 frontline workers will participate in door-to-door program to immunize children below five years of age 
  • Nearly 80 new cases of polio have been reported since January this year 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday began an anti-polio drive to vaccinate nearly 30 million children in 128 districts across the country as part of a campaign which ends on November 1. 

For the purpose, 210,000 frontline workers will participate in the door-to-door initiative to immunize children below five years of age, a statement released by Pakistan Polio Eradication Program (PPEP) said on Monday. 

It added that during smaller campaigns launched in July and August, frontline workers had been trained in anti-COVID-19 precautionary measures, such as proper use of face masks, regular hand washing, and maintaining a safe social distance during the door-to-door visits. 

“Polio workers have been trained in COVID-19 protocols...and the anti-polio campaign would be utilized to raise awareness about preventive measures against coronavirus as well,” it said. 

All polio activities in Pakistan came to a halt when the World Health Organization (WHO) decided in late March that they should be suspended to avoid placing communities and frontline workers at the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Pakistan resumed its anti-polio drive on July 20, after a four-month break and in smaller numbers, with the campaign used to raise awareness about the coronavirus disease as well.

According to the WHO, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where polio continues to be a threat, with Pakistan reporting 79 new cases since January this year. 

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus, mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. 

“Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free,” the PPEP statement said.