MP Tim Uppal Announces 5M,arrives in Pakistan, visits displaced
TORONTO - .
SAHRA (South Asians for Human Rights Association) held a Round table at a banquet hall in Mississauga on the ongoing issue of Sikhs and other minority internally displaced persons (IDP's) on the hands of Taliban controlled areas at Buner, FATA in Malakand region (North western Pakistan. Besides Canadian government and nonprofit organizations, several other Human Rights activists and organizations from US and UK with a special interest on religious minorities attended.
The motive of the meeting was to initiate dialogue between the governments of Canada and Pakistan and to highlight urgency for the humanitarian situation unfolding due to the constant fighting between the Taliban and the Government forces.
The issue of the well being and humanitarian condition of the people was discussed at length originally scheduled for an hour the meeting went well beyond that.
Mr. Bhatti did acknowledge the fact that there is definitely a problem in Pakistan and will work with Canadian government if there is a proposal made through the government channels about getting the refugee sponsorships .SAHRA has offered the citizenship and immigration Canada (CIC) a proposal where the funds will be raised by various Organizations working with SAHRA, under the immigration act organizations and persons are eligible to sponsor refugees in need of immediate assistance into Canada from identified troubled areas. CIC has approved it in essence and has forwarded it to DFAIT for final analysis. Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney was represented by his senior Regional Advisor at the round table.
Shambhu Datt Sharma , president Gray Tigers and a coordinator of Hindu sabha said, "We all have the right to life and to live freely but in Pakistan the situation is very different and while minorities are being killed by the Taliban and the government has failed to take proper care of its lawful citizens and that is our major concern for groups like us , we support SAHRA fully and will work alongside.."
" We are endorsing SAHRA fully and will work together with them to sponsor refugees from pakistan" said, Gurdev Singh Mann , the president of the sikh temple in North York
Similar sentiments were conveyed to SAHRA by dozens of organizations taking part in the round table.
Tim Uppal , a conservative Member of Parliament from Edmonton who has also raised this issue in the parliament said,
"Canada is closely monitoring the situation and we remain concerned about all civilians in the conflict affected areas, we call upon the Government of Pakistan to ensure the security and safety of all its citizens including religious minorities."
Applauding SAHRA's efforts and initiative on the Pakistan's IDP issue ,"I am pleased to announce on behalf of the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister CIDA has committed 5 million dollars to the humanitarian effort to help those people displaced by the conflict. " added Tim Uppal , a third generation attired Sikh-Canadian.
President Obama has followed Canada's annoucement with a hundred million announcement for the displaced today.A visiting Pakistan minister vowed to protect Sikhs from the Taliban even as Canada announced $5 million for Pakistan's Sikh families who have fled the Swat Valley after the imposition of 'jaziya' (tax on non-Muslims) by the Taliban.
Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who was a special invitee to the round-table, said: ‘I want the minorities to know that they have a brother and a friend in the government of Pakistan who will do all in his power to stop atrocities on Sikhs in Pakistan.’
When asked whether the Pakistan government will compensate the Sikhs for the money taken away by the Taliban, the minister only said: ‘I strongly condemn the Jaziya collected from Sikhs by the Taliban.’
The Pakistani government has announced a token compensation of $120 each to the displaced Sikh families, many of whom have sought refuge in the historic Sikh shrine at Hasan Abdal.
Asked by round-table convener and filmmaker Roger Nair how Pakistan could justify such a small amount, the minister said Sikh refugees are ’still in a better shape than many of over a million or so refugees since they have a better organised structure in the form of gurdwaras’.
Answering another question posed by Mr. Nair about whether he would be able to provide security to a delegation or Canadian government officials he admitted that it is a volatile situation in the Malakand region but he will be able to get security for the delegation to Panja Sahib (A Sikh pilgrimage) region and another refugee camp for IDP's in Pakistan.
The Toronto-based South Asians for Human Rights Association (SAHRA), which organised the round-table discussion with the visiting Pakistani minister, offered to sponsor 50 displaced Sikh and Hindu families as refugees to Canada.
‘We have written to the Canadian government to sponsor these families from Pakistan. We will work with both the governments and local bodies to identify displaced families due to the Jaziya tax and sponsor them,’ said SAHRA chairman Roger Nair.
Roger Nair also demanded the abolition of the blasphemy law in Pakistan under which the murderers of a 27-year-old Hindu worker Jagdish Kumar last year went unpunished.SAHRA originally called for the abolition of this draconian law in April 2008 when the murder just happened.
"We are a small organization who has taken an initiative in an effort to get the ball rolling towards this noble cause and can use all the help we can get" said SAHRA chair Roger Nair in closing."We will help and facilitate any government initiative to address the issue", he added on behalf of SAHRA.
There are 1.5 Million people displaced in total in numerous make shift Camps, as temperatures sore to 45 degrees celsius in Pakistan.
Tim Uppal has gone to Paksitan following the meeting to have a look at the situation first hand in the camps,He is the only south asian elected official in the world (besides the Pakistanis) to go see the camps first hand.The visit is facilitated by SAHRA..