for peace in South Asia, particularly Pakistan. — Nadeem Nusrat
Pakistan must improve its ties with all neighboring countries besides working closely
with the international community to combat this grave challenge.
The need to address the rising resentment in Karachi is now more critical
SAMAF will continue its efforts to give voice to the voiceless — Puneet Ahluwalia
South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation (SAMAF) chairman Nadeem Nusrat has said that the U.S. forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan is likely to pose severe challenges for peace in South Asia, particularly in Pakistan. The religious extremists, emboldened by the U.S. forces’ departure, will attempt to expand their reach beyond Afghanistan, particularly in Pakistan, which could seriously jeopardize already fragile peace in the region. Pakistan must improve its ties with all neighboring countries besides working closely with the international world to combat this grave challenge. Addressing the rising resentment in Pakistan’s economic engine, Karachi, is now more critical than ever, for the religious extremists are likely to lure the unemployed, frustrated youths into their ranks. SAMAF chairman said this while addressing the guests at an iftar dinner in the U.S. capital. Congressmen Bob Good and Barry Moore were among a select group of guests that also included former Congressman Thomas Garrett, Jr., SAMAF executive director Puneet Ahluwalia, and members of influential U.S. think tanks. Only a handful of guests were invited to the event due to the social restrictions.
In his address, Nadeem Nusrat elaborated on the situation in South Asia and growing threats for religious and ethnic minorities. He explained how the city of Karachi had been badly neglected and brutally disenfranchised despite its massive tax contribution toward the national and provincial exchequers. “Most independent bodies estimate Karachi’s population well over 25 million, some as high as 32 million. However, each census reduces its population by more than one-half, leaving millions of taxpayers disenfranchised. The city is ruled by a corrupt rural landed class that shows
no interest in urban Sindh’s development. Rural Sindh is also is a living example of appalling governance. This civic and political crisis is a recipe for an imminent disaster,” he added.
Nadeem Nusrat reminded the participants that the then U.S. administration had played a vital role in the passage of the 18th Amendment in Pakistan’s constitution. This amendment was essentially aimed at the devolution of power from the center to the local government. In Sindh, he pointed out, the provincial government blatantly refused to comply with the constitutional requirement and took control of even the basic civic departments, leaving the local bodies absolutely powerless. The mayor of Karachi does not even control solid waste management. The city whose taxes run Pakistan and Sindh has turned into a massive pile of trash.
“As lawlessness, unemployment, hunger, homelessness, and the subsequent deprivation continue to rise in Karachi, the religious extremist elements are eyeing the city as the next bastion of their terrorist activities. It is in Pakistan’s best interest to address the rising unrest in urban Sindh. The citizens in urban Sindh must be made a stakeholder in their cities’ administrative and political affairs, and only a separate administrative status of urban Sindh within Pakistan could ensure this objective,” SAMAF chairman suggested.
“The majority of Pakistanis do not support religious extremists. The common masses are only interested in having access to necessities of life, such as education, employment, housing, power, and clean water. But a combination of bad governance and corruption has made the poor even poorer with every passing year. Religious extremists have taken full advantage of this situation in many parts of the country, and the recent acts of violence vindicate this observation. Minorites feel even more scared about their future and the right to worship. Pakistan must work with its neighbors and the international community to address these challenges. Peace in the region will allow Pakistan and its neighbors to jointly tackle the menace of terrorism and divert the precious, even scarce, resources on improving living conditions for their people,” Nadeem Nusrat asserted.
Nadeem Nusrat also responded to the questions by the guests besides handing them documentary evidence describing the miserable civic and economic conditions in urban Sindh.
Addressing the event, SAMAF senior advisor Honorable Thomas Garrett, Jr. reiterated SAMAF’s stance that religious freedom is a birthright of every human, and every country in South Asia must respect that. He highlighted how SAMAF has closely worked with similar groups and various countries’ representatives to bring attention to this issue. He vowed that SAMAF would continue to pursue its goals at every level until minorities are afforded the freedoms they are entitled to.
SAMAF executive director Puneet Ahluwalia, who is also running in the election for Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, gave a brief overview of the outfit’s activities in the last three years and its admirable role in helping the victims of human rights violations in the region. He commended the role of Ambassador Brownback and the United States Commission for International Religious Freedoms in the last few years to give voice to the voiceless. He reiterated SAMAF’s stance to continue to follow the same ideals in the future too.