Showing posts from December, 2018

Religious freedom in Pakistan

Earlier this month, a press statement by US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said that Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, have been designated as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom”.

Some analysts pointed out that this was only done because the US wants to exert pressure on Pakistan for various reasons, especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan. They think the US wants Pakistan to take action against militants based in Pakistan and also wants it to help in its negotiations with the Afghan Taliban. Pak-US relations have seen a fair share of ups and downs. The US mantra of ‘Do More’ has become a norm and is part and parcel of its ‘carrot and stick policy’. Putting Pakistan on a religious freedom list may be just a pressure tactic by the US. Others believe that this list i…

A step forward in the right direction

I first visited India back in 2007. When I returned, I wrote: “It had always been my dream to visit India one day because the country fascinates me. India’s rich culture and history and the fact that both India and Pakistan share a common history, including bittersweet memories, only added to my fascination.”

I have been to India many times since then; my passports are filled mostly with Indian visas. The last time I visited India was in July 2016 for a friend’s wedding. This is the longest stretch that I have gone without visiting India since my first trip. And it is not for want of trying. Unfortunately, Pakistanis are not being given Indian visas. And we may not get visas till the 2019 Indian elections. This is a result of the tumultuous relationship Pakistan shares with India. Due to the tense relations between the two nuclear-armed states, the people of both countries suffer. With the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, I see a glimmer of hope.

In his victory speech after winning …

Aftermath of a verdict

On October 31, a three-judge special bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. She was on death row. Many people hailed the verdict and commended the judges who were brave enough to hear Aasia Bibi’s final appeal in a court of law. Justice had finally been served.

Chairman of the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, said: “Aasia Bibi is free because justice was dispensed wisely and without any fear. This should be the practice in all such cases. Innocent people should not suffer incarcerations due to a fear of backlash.”

A woman who had spent almost a decade in jail due to false charges of blasphemy was finally free. It was heartbreaking to read an AFP report in which Aasia asked the reporter in disbelief if she was actually free and whether they would finally let her out. Her disbelief wasn’t misplaced.

Within hours of the verdict, we saw violent protests erupt…

War and peace

India and Pakistan share both history and geography yet they are constantly in a state of war – not always literally, but figuratively speaking. People on both sides of the border have suffered a great deal due to the tense relations between the two sides. States always have their own reasons to behave a certain way but at the end of the day, it’s the people who suffer. Apart from the general public, journalists in India and Pakistan have also suffered – if relations between the two sides are bad, they will not get visas. This also leads to more negativity on the media. If people-to-people contact is encouraged, it will only bring normalcy to a region that is still battling the ghosts of a bloody partition.

Thus it was quite heartening to see 22 Indian journalists cross the Wagah border to cover the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor. They were invited and hosted by the government of Pakistan. On the first night of their visit, Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar hosted …

Writ of the state

It was shocking to hear the news of SP Tahir Dawar’s martyrdom. Dawar was kidnapped from Islamabad on October 26 and his dead body found in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. The government did not make much noise about it, which is unbelievable given that a valiant police officer was kidnapped from the capital city. Not only did the government not make any noise but as per Iftikhar Durrani, Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Pakistan on Media, he was given information by the police that SP Dawar was back in Peshawar on October 28. Mr Durrani gave a beeper to VoA on October 28 and claimed that SP Dawar was safe and sound. If it is indeed true and the police had misinformed the government, action must be taken against those who filed this fake report.

How was a serving police officer kidnapped from the capital and then his kidnappers managed to cross the border into Afghanistan without being noticed? Did the government investigate properly why he was kidnapped? How come the governme…