July 28, 2011


[India and Pakistan share a long and fractious border and have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, which both claim. Other issues, like sharing water from the Indus Valley rivers, are also difficult points of contention.]

By Lydia Polgreen
Hina Rabbani Khar, the foreign minister of Pakistan,
with her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, after arriving
for talks in New Delhi on Wednesday.
NEW DELHI — The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan met here on Wednesday, agreeing to a set of small but significant concessions to ease tensions in the disputed border region of Kashmir and pledging to work toward closer ties between their mutually wary, nuclear-armed countries.
 The meeting came just two weeks after three synchronized explosions ripped through the city of Mumbai at rush hour, killing 24 people, wounding more than 100 and raising fresh Indian suspicions about possible Pakistani subterfuge. The decision by both sides to proceed with the meeting anyway signaled that broad-based talks aimed at resolving issues between the countries were back on track. They had been stalled for more than two years after Pakistani gunmen killed more than 160 people in a rampage through Mumbai, formerly Bombay
“We have reaffirmed our commitment to resolve all outstanding issues through a comprehensive, serious and sustained dialogue,” said S. M. Krishna, India’s foreign minister, after the meeting.
“This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation,” said Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s new foreign minister, the first woman to hold that position and, at 34, one of the youngest. “I believe it is the desire of both countries to make an uninterrupted and uninterruptible process.” 
India and Pakistan share a long and fractious border and have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, which both claim. Other issues, like sharing water from the Indus Valley rivers, are also difficult points of contention.
Both countries have nuclear weapons. The United States has long wanted India and Pakistan to resolve their differences so that Pakistan might focus on fighting the Taliban and other Islamic militants on its western frontier. 
The measures the ministers announced were relatively small but represent a significant change in tone and outlook for the relationship between the countries, analysts said. 
The number of days cross-border trade will be allowed between the two sides of Kashmir will be doubled to four per week. The two governments agreed to make it easier for Kashmiris from either side to cross the border. Travel permits are currently issued only to people with relatives on the other side, but on Wednesday the ministers agreed to allow people to visit for tourism and religious pilgrimages.
They also pledged to reduce the amount of time it takes for applicants to secure travel permits to 45 days or less, rather than the three to four months it currently takes. 
The two ministers agreed that they would meet in the first half of 2012 to discuss progress.


[Prof. Naeem Khan, who teaches zoology and has been part of the campus administration, said that three weeks after the killing, the head cleric of the campus mosque started praising Bin Laden and asked people to pray for him.] 
By Salman Masood
LAHORE, Pakistan — The posters were plastered around the campus of Pakistan’s largest university last month, inviting students to enter a poetry and essay contest eulogizing a major historical figure who spent his last years living in seclusion in this nation.
The subject of such an outpouring of praise? Osama bin Laden.
The contest may have seemed out of place here at the University of the Punjab, a century-old prestigious institution in this eastern city, known as the artistic and cultural capital of the country. After all, there had been no campus protests denouncing the death of Bin Laden, who was killed in a nighttime raid by United States Navy Seal commandos in the northern garrison town of Abbottabad.
But the big surprise was not the contest itself, at least not in a nation where 63 percent of the people disapprove of the operation that killed Bin Laden, according to a June survey by the Pew Research Center.
Indeed, the big surprise was just the opposite: that the contest organizers chose to remain anonymous, providing nothing more than an e-mail address to send submissions.
For over three decades, this campus has been a stronghold of an Islamic student group known as Islami Jamiat Talaba. The group forcefully imposes its Islamic interpretations on the students, has effectively banned music and cultural activities and scoffs at interaction between men and women outside the classrooms. Its vigilantes regularly attack male students who are found sitting close to their female colleagues. Students have been hospitalized, a dorm was stormed by supporters brandishing guns, and anti-Western and pro-Jihad literature is easily available.
It would seem all but natural that Jamiat, as the student group is commonly referred to, would not only hold such a contest, but do it proudly.
So why all the mystery?
“We are trying to find out who is behind it,” Khuram Shahzad, public relations officer of the university, said, referring to the contest. “We feel it is objectionable political activity, and disciplinary action will be taken against the organizers.”
Perpetuating the suspense, the secret organizers promised to send the prizes only by mail. There was also no announcement of the winners.
Suspicions widely fell on Jamiat because the group makes no bones about its presence on campus and holds tight control in the dorms, constantly reminding visitors and occupants through posters, notifications and pamphlets.
Salahuddin, 20, a student of mass communications, said he often found posters and magazines belonging to different Islamist groups like Jamiat — as well as nationally banned militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ut-Tahrir — circulated in the men’s dorms.
“I have seen posters urging students for jihad,” Mr. Salahuddin said.
He also suspected Jamiat’s involvement in the contest, but like many other students, professors and administrators here, he did not have any proof to substantiate his opinion.
Support for Bin Laden on campus is certainly not hard to find. Muhammad Chanzaib, 25, Mr. Salahuddin’s roommate, said he was in favor of the eulogy contest.
“Osama is a hero of Muslims,” he said. “America has killed Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Prof. Naeem Khan, who teaches zoology and has been part of the campus administration, said that three weeks after the killing, the head cleric of the campus mosque started praising Bin Laden and asked people to pray for him.
“I refused and walked out and so did a few other people,” Professor Khan said. “But many students had raised their hands for the prayer.”
Like several others, Professor Khan believed that the organizers’ anonymity was merely a tactic to escape suspension or expulsion.
“They have learnt their lessons,” he said. “Earlier, Jamiat used to openly announce its affiliation, and its members were never shy of having their names imprinted on Jamiat posters and pamphlets. But in the last few years, university administration started taking action against such students.”
Professor Khan, who said he had expelled more than 100 students with extremist leanings during his tenure, said orthodoxy was “spreading like wildfire” in the country in general, and in state-run education institutions in particular.
“There is more radicalization every year,” he said, referring to the campus environment.
Last month, students belonging to Jamiat thrashed Kashif Hussain, a philosophy student, after they found him sitting with a female student early in the morning, before most students had arrived for classes.
“He was sitting with his body touching the female,” said a student who sympathized with Jamiat but declined to give his name. “Such un-Islamic behavior will not be tolerated.”
Mr. Hussain said in an interview that he was merely talking to his fellow classmate, and many on the campus reject the hard line of Jamiat. On June 22, about 50 female students held a rare rally against the groups’ tactics.
Two days later, however, at least 40 Jamiat supporters stormed the dorm where most philosophy students live at 2 a.m. Four of them brandished pistols and revolvers and shot in the air, students and faculty said. Two philosophy students were so severely beaten that they had to be hospitalized. Two teachers were also injured.
The university administration chose not to lodge a police complaint after Jamiat apologized.
Muhammad Zubair Safdar, 25, the leader of Islami Jamiat Talaba at the campus, said he did not condone the violence, and he denied that members of his group were involved in the shooting.
He was sitting in an office, set up in a dorm, and also denied having any links with the contest.
“It could be a reaction to Osama bin Laden’s killing,” Mr. Safdar said. “We have never supported Osama. In fact, we don’t acknowledge the existence of Al Qaeda. It is an imaginary organization,” he said as a few acolytes sitting in the room nodded in agreement.
Mr. Safdar said Jamiat had maintained its presence in the university because it was supported by a vast majority of the students.
“We do everything openly,” he said. “We do not believe in secret activities. We will not let anyone else indulge in secret activities either.”