Pakistan hopes to work with Modi for peace

Imran congratulates PM; PPP leader calls for ‘revision in strategic priorities’

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday joined a host of world leaders in congratulating Narendra Modi for his Bharatiya Janata Party’s election victory.

“I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Mr. Khan tweeted.

The Pakistan Prime Minister had in April told a group of foreign journalists that “if the BJP wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached.”

Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood said Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government firmly believes that the real wars that India and Pakistan need to fight are against poverty and illiteracy. “I hope that after this victory, Mr. Modi will play a positive role towards peace between our two countries. For peace to happen the sufferings of the Kashmiri people have to end,” he said.

While Mr. Khan and…

Women journalists in the age of online trolls

On July 13, 2018, journalist Asma Shirazi interviewed former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he was coming back from London, along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz, to face a prison sentence. The interview was not telecast due to censorship, but trolls immediately started an online campaign targeting Ms. Shirazi. “It left a psychological impact on me. I wouldn’t like to go in the details as I don’t want my trolls to get any satisfaction from it. While it affected me for a short while — I took a break from Twitter, or became more cautious about what I wrote or said — I took it positively in the long run as I learned a lot from this episode.”

Ms. Shirazi said she deals with such negative campaigns by not checking her mentions on Twitter.

This was not an isolated incident. Last month, several journalists critical of the government, including Marvi Sirmed, Mubashir Zaidi and Umar Cheema, were abused on Twitter with trending hashtags. Women are particularly targeted.

A report by Di…

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Imran Khan’s challenger

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has emerged as a leading voice of opposition to Imran Khan’s government in recent months. Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is unwell and in prison. PML(N) leaders, including Mr. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, face several legal challenges over corruption cases and have gone relatively quiet.

This has left a vacuum in the Opposition politics and Mr. Bhutto-Zardari has stepped into this vacuum “with surprising ease”, said journalist Fahd Husain. “Gone is the awkwardness of speech and shyness of demeanour that once marked his political appearances. He is saying the right things, hitting the right tones and getting the right response.” Mr. Husain added that if Mr. Khan’s government is facing any real, hard-hitting and sustained opposition, it is from Mr. Bhutto-Zardari. “The PML-N will need to up its game if it wants to steal the thunder from the young Bilawal.”

According to journalist …

Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan for Canada

She was acquitted of blasphemy last year

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted by the Supreme Court of blasphemy last year, has finally left Pakistan for Canada to be reunited with her family. She had been falsely accused of blasphemy in 2009 and spent more than eight years in prison.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an Islamist political party, staged protests across Pakistan after Ms. Bibi’s acquittal and demanded that she be hanged. Ms. Bibi was kept in protective custody till she finally left the country.

TLP leader Khadim Rizvi and other activists were later arrested for creating unrest in the country and incitement to violence. Rizvi is still in jail.

Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer who works for the Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said it is a relief that Ms. Bibi’s ordeal has come to an end. “However, it is a scandal that it took so long, particularly after the Supreme Court decision. Asia’s case spotlighted the failure of the justice system at all levels and the lack of p…

Azhar listing not a victory for India: Pak

‘All political references, including attempts to link it with Pulwama attack, were removed’

A spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar was listed as an international terrorist after “all political references” were removed from the resolution and it was not a victory for India.

“The current listing proposal has been agreed after all political references, including removal of attempts to link it with [the] Pulwama [attack] and maligning the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris”, were removed from the resolution,” said Mohammad Faisal.

“The Indian media’s attempts to build a narrative claiming it as a victory for India and validation of its stance are thus absolutely false and baseless,” he told presspersons in Islamabad.

“Our position is in line with the statements of Prime Minister Imran Khan who clearly stated that there is no space for any proscribed organisation or its affiliates to operate from Pakistani territory,…

The Prime Minister who stirred a hornet’s nest

Imran Khan’s statement in Tehran, in which he admitted to the presence of militant outfits in Pakistan, triggered a wave of criticism back home

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan said something in Iran that caused a stir in Pakistan. At a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Mr. Khan said: “Just a few days back, 14 of our security personnel were killed by terrorists in Balochistan. And I know that Iran has suffered from terrorism, which are from groups operating from within Pakistan. So the security chief will be sitting with his counterpart here and today, they will be discussing ways of cooperation and so that we have trust in each other that both countries will not allow any terrorist activity from their soil ...”

Mr. Khan’s statement took many by surprise. While some appreciated his honesty in admitting Pakistan’s mistakes, others were more critical.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif tweeted: “Vilifying & defaming your own country on foreign soil, sitting with for…

BBZ: The real face of Opposition

Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has emerged as a powerful voice against the government in recent days. From his election campaign in 2018 to his first speech in parliament, Mr Bhutto-Zardari has won accolades for being a voice of reason and sanity. From calling Prime Minister Khan ‘selected PM’ to being extremely vocal about media censorship, from talking about minorities rights to voicing his concern for the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), Mr Bhutto-Zardari has been hitting all the right notes. Even his political opponents have had to praise him for challenging this government and other powerful quarters.

Ali Dar, son of former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, recently tweeted: “@BBhuttoZardari, you beauty! Eloquent, undeterred and not the least bit daunted! BB Shaheed would have been so proud; I’m sure she is smiling down on you from the Heaven. Godspeed!” This was after Mr Bhutto’s press conference on April 29.

Bilawal Bhutto’s powerful speeches and his sta…

Presidential system — a debate rages on in Pak.

Hamza Ali Abbasi, an actor close to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, tweeted earlier this month: “I am beginning to feel that PAKISTAN needs presidential system to get rid of the powerful MNA/MPA (members of the National and Provincial Assemblies) influence, abolition of large Provinces & Administrative Divisions made into smaller Provinces with powerful/empowered directly elected local body Governments.”

Mr. Abbasi’s tweet led to a debate about a presidential system in Pakistan, from social networks to the mainstream media. Some people were of the opinion that this was coming from powerful quarters. Mr. Abbasi clarified on his tweets that when people accuse him of being “a stooge of the establishment” and that his words are “dictated” by the military and intelligence agencies “to help mould public opinion”, he likes it as it makes him feel way more important than he actually is.

Mr. Abbasi is not the only one who has been talking about the presidential system in r…

Pakistan Finance Minister quits as Imran reshuffles Cabinet

The government had earlier denied news of a shake-up

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar stepped down on Thursday as part of a reshuffle of the Cabinet initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“As part of a Cabinet reshuffle, PM desired that I take the Energy Minister portfolio instead of Finance. However, I have obtained his consent to not take any Cabinet position. I strongly believe @ImranKhanPTI is the best hope for Pakistan and inshallah will make a naya Pakistan,” Mr. Umar tweeted on Thursday.

Abdul Hafeez Sheikh will be Adviser on Finance.

Sources said Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan was also asked to step down, but he refused to do so. He reportedly said that he will leave Prime Minister Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party if he’s forced to quit the Cabinet. He has now been made Federal Minister for Aviation.

More changes

Shehryar Afridi, State Minister for Interior, has now been made Minister for States and Frontier Regions. The new Federal Minister of Interior…

Pakistan's narrative on Kashmir

“We have lost the narrative on Jammu and Kashmir.”— Abdul Basit Former High Commissioner of Pakistan to India

Q. Why do you think India attacked Pakistan?

AB: There is a context to the attack, post-Pulwama. One is domestic politics, i.e. the Indian elections. We say this, and so does the Congress Party.

The second is to present Kashmir through the prism of terror and to isolate Pakistan. Had India given us the dossier earlier, they would not have been able to take the action that they did. Diplomatically it would have been difficult for them. I don’t know what the dossier contains but if we look at the old dossiers [they presented], there wasn’t much in them either. Some newspaper clippings and circumstantial evidence but no irrefutable evidence as such.

Q. Realistically speaking, do you think there will ever be a resolution of the Kashmir dispute?

AB: I think we will definitely see a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. How it happens…that remains to be seen. The Kashmir valley is tota…