For Pakistanis, China is this great friend and the Sino-Pakistani friendship is sweeter than honey, stronger than steel and higher than the Karakoram. The Chinese are not sentimental like us and while they may not openly tweet messages, they have a subtle way of conveying their messages. This was clearly visible during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to China when the Chinese, while reaffirming the strategic relationship did not offer any economic assistance package to Pakistan.
The Prime Minister’s trip to China at a time when there were violent protests in the streets of the country was defended on grounds that “Khan was required to go to China to secure quick money, loans, assistance and investments to shore up the Pakistani economy and state finances.” However, it appears that the trip was decided without discussions on both sides.
The Prime Minister “was already in China for several days when on Saturday, a senior Chinese official, Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, made a remarkable statement. Pledging that China has in principle decided to help Pakistan tide over its current economic difficulties, Mr Kong added: “As for the specific measures to be taken, the relevant authorities of the two sides will have detailed discussions.” On Sunday, a joint statement marking the formal end of Prime Minister Khan’s trip to China appeared to confirm what was stated a day before by Vice Foreign Minister Kong. In the joint statement, there is no assistance package announced, just boilerplate diplomatic language reaffirming the deep strategic ties between China and Pakistan.”
According to an Editorial in Dawn “First, if a formal assistance package had not been already agreed to, what was the urgency for Mr Khan to leave Pakistan in the midst of a national crisis? Surely, Mr Khan was not going to negotiate in person with senior Chinese officials — the Chinese officials have themselves pointed to detailed negotiations needing to take place between the relevant authorities of the countries. Second, and more importantly, given that it is an ongoing issue, why have the “detailed discussions” yet to take place? It is possible that China is driving a hard bargain, but that would not be unexpected. However, did the Pakistani side prepare for hard negotiations? Or have the PTI government’s economic managers once again shown their inexperience and expected that a rescue package will be assembled because of Pakistan’s geopolitical importance or perhaps Prime Minister Khan’s political standing?”
Further, the Chinese in their own way conveyed their displeasure over the PTI’s attacks on CPEC in recent months. According to a news story, Chinese officials “gathered all the statements of Imran Khan and his senior cabinet members about the problems with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and showed them to him in a high profile meeting. The Pakistani PM was then asked to be careful about such statements in future and was also told to rein in his ministers on the subject.”
Further, in the official statements issued “after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Yi especially mentioned that the officials on both sides should be careful about matters of significance, as reported by Chinese media.”
As Pakistanis and as champions of freedoms of various hues, we at New-Pakistan welcome the landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to finally acquit 47-year old Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death. However, we are deeply concerned about the environment created over the years that has allowed the misuse of blasphemy laws not only against religious minorities but against anyone who seeks to speak up against them. The protests against this verdict and the challenge to state authority led by the latest Frankenstein monster, the Tehreek e Labaik Pakistan, are worrying and troublesome.
As the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated in a recent statement “while there is every reason to be relieved that Aasia Bibi has been acquitted after eight years of incarceration in the perpetual shadow of a death sentence, that Pakistan should have come this close to executing a woman for ‘blasphemy’ is a sobering thought.”
Further, “with at least 40 other people reportedly on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy, both the state and civil society need to introspect. From a human rights perspective, the Supreme Court’s detailed judgment underlines several of the most problematic aspects of applying the blasphemy laws. The presumption of innocence is too easily buried by moral outrage, which invariably pits the vulnerable and underprivileged against those in majority. Moreover, the evidence of extrajudicial confession cannot be allowed to hold any legal worth.”
Pakistan has seen the continued rise of new radical groups that preach hatred and violence against anyone who disagrees with their point of view. The Tehreek e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has street power but has gained in political strength during the recent elections.
HRCP expressed concern over, “the vicious reaction of all far-right religious-political groups who have taken to violent protests and openly threatened the lives of those associated with this case. While we welcome the government’s stance that the rule of law must be upheld, HRCP urges the state to make it perfectly clear that any party’s incitement to religious hatred – notably that of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan – will not be tolerated and is punishable under the law. Moreover, while it is critical that the judges and lawyers associated with this and similar cases be provided adequate security, this is a short-term solution to a longer, harder battle. Ultimately, the state must consider reforming the blasphemy laws in the interest of applying the law to all its citizens fairly, irrespective of their faith.’”
Over the years Pakistan has lost political leaders– like Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti – lawyers and human rights activists – Rashed Rahman – and countless others still lie in prison or have had to flee the country.
This needs to stop and we need to take a collective stand.