Pakistani Dissident Attacked in Netherlands as State Crackdown on Dissent Grows

Washington: South Asians Against Terrorism & for Human Rights (SAATH Forum), a coalition of prominent democratic, liberal, nationalist, and progressive Pakistani dissidents, have strongly condemned an attack on Pakistani blogger Waqas Goraya in the Netherlands.

According to details, two men were waited for him near his house in exile, and attacked him as soon as he arrived there after work.

One of them made video of the attack while the other was beating Mr. Goraya. Talking to SAATH members, Mr. Goraya has accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and the Army for commissioning this attack.

The Dutch Police have recorded his statement and is investigating the matter.

“The attack has happened on the day when Pakistan’s strongest human rights group, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and its supporters world over was holding protest demonstrations in many capitals of the world and major cities of Pakistan, in memory of Late Defender Arman Loni who was killed by Pakistani security agencies one year ago,” SAATH said.

“SAATH is observing the conduct of the state of Pakistan with strong concern for prevailing human rights situation in the country. In last ten days, Pakistani government has arrested Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of PTM, charged him for sedition, cracked down on unarmed, peaceful protestors thrice and has humiliated and arrested National Assembly member and PTM leader Mohsin Dawar. SAATH members are of the view that the attack on Mr Goraya appears to be a part of this same streak of state overreaction and authoritarianism against its own citizens. This clearly, is an attempt to silence all voices of dissent.”

However, the attack on Mr. Goraya who is not living in Pakistan, is worrisome also because it sets a very dangerous precedent wherein Pakistani state is seen to be using its influence among the diaspora to attack and perpetrate violence against the peaceful Human Rights Defenders of Pakistani origin. Having dissidents attacked in foreign countries has been a very old playbook of authoritarian regimes as was seen in case of Jamal Khashoggi. Pakistan’s embarking on this path is doubly more troubling because the country has rogue elements both within and without the state and can put lives of hundreds of law-abiding dissidents who are living in western world, in clear jeopardy.”

SAATH urged Dutch authorities to examine this line of inquiry and make sure that not only the culprits are caught, but if their link with Pakistan’s security agencies is proven, the Government of Pakistan must be encouraged to take action against those agencies. We also demand from the Government of Pakistan to immediately release all the protesters and Mr. Manzoor Pashteen. SAATH expresses its deepest sympathies and solidarity with Mr. Goraya, Mr. Pashteen and the protesters of PTM who have been harmed in any way or have been arrested.

Prominent members of SAATH include former Senator Afrasiab Khattak, former ambassadors Husain Haqqani and Kamran Shafi, and columnists Dr Mohammed Taqi, Rashed Rahman, Marvi Sirmed, Gul Bukhari, and Taha Siddiqui, and activists Rubina Greenwood, Saghir Shaikh, and Nabi Bukhsh Baloch.

After 72 years of emotionalism on Kashmir, is Pakistan finally ready for realism?

For over 72 years, Pakistanis have been brought up on the notion that Kashmir is the shah rug (jugular vein) of Pakistan and that it was the duty of every Pakistani to ensure that the ‘K’ of Pakistan became a part of Pakistani territory.

For years, Pakistan has allowed emotion to prevail over rationality and pragmatism when it comes to any aspect of policy, especially foreign policy.

In a news conference in Muzaffarabad (capital of Azad Kashmir) on August 12, however, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated “You (people) should not in live fool’s paradise. Nobody will be standing there (in the UNSC) with garlands in hands…Nobody will be there waiting for you.”

For decades Pakistan’s foreign policy has centered around the issue of Kashmir: Pakistani leaders – both civilian and military – have always portrayed their close relationships with the Gulf Muslim Arab countries, with China, with the US and with the larger Muslim world as being critical to their effort to get back Kashmir.

India-Pakistan relations have also been viewed purely from the prism of Kashmir. While India and China have a border dispute, and have fought a war, today China is one of India’s top trading partners with $85 billion in annual trade. South Asia is the least economically integrated region thanks primarily to Pakistan’s refusal to allow trade with India unless and until Kashmir is resolved.

Only time will tell if these were isolated remarks made by Qureshi, who was also foreign minister under the PPP government (2008-2010) or if there really is a policy shift.

If it is a policy shift it would require the need for realism in Pakistan’s overall policy towards its neighbors and on the economic foreign policy front as well.

Outrage on Kashmir, only by Pakistanis, for Pakistanis

Apart from strengthening the Pakistani military and its control over Pakistani society, Pakistan has accomplished little through its periodic outbursts over the years on the issue of Kashmir. A similar outburst occurred recently after Pakistan was caught napping when India revoked Article 370.

Every Pakistani is taught from childhood that Kashmir is the shah rug or jugular vein and that Pakistan is incomplete without the ‘K’ (Kashmir) in the acronym that was Pakistan (Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh)

Since 1990, every year February 5 is celebrated in Pakistan as Kashmir day and is a national holiday. We shut down businesses and suffer loss of GDP. Does celebrating Kashmir Day or shutting down businesses help the Kashmir cause or the Kashmiris?

Pakistan has always sought to involve the international community, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in forcing India to talk about Kashmir and agree to a plebiscite as per the UNSC resolutions of the late 1940s-early 1950s. However, the last time the UNSC demanded a resolution was in 1957. That was before most Pakistanis were born!!!

The United States to whom we looked for years to force India to listen to us has stated that what had happened in Kashmir is an internal matter.

Pakistan’s rulers claim that the country is not isolated and we have friends and allies in the world who support our stand on Kashmir and India. Well we learned this week who are on our side: our brother Muslim country UAE has supported India, our South Asian neighbors – Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh – have come out on India’s side and even China’s protest has to do with the territory of Kashmir it claims – Ladakh – not with our aims!

The one place where a resolution was passed on Kashmir was in our own National Assembly. What good are resolutions if they only reflect our outrage at ourselves?

What have we as Pakistan done for the Kashmir cause aside from using it to claim that we are a champion of Muslim causes? There we should look within and ask why we keep quiet about the Uyghurs or our own Baloch and Pashtun brethren!

What have we as the Pakistani state done for the Kashmiri people aside from supporting terrorism that has only ended up hurting them, their cause and their struggle?

Either we should be able to convince the world about our stand or we should let Kashmiris decide their own actions rather than being dictated from Rawalpindi.

ISPR’s Future Troll Army?

On July 31st, the twitter account of the Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the head of Pakistan’s ISPR (Inter Service Public Relations) tweeted a video and photographs where COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to, interacted and met with an auditorium full of interns.

An intern is a student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, at a trade or occupation in order to gain work experience.

Goldman Sachs, one of the largest investment banks and financial services company with an annual revenue of $36 billion has one of the most sought after internship programs on Wall Street has 36,300 employees but less than 350 interns.

ISPR, the Pakistan military’s propaganda arm, is not a $36 billion enterprise, nor does it employ 36,300 employees. For it to have what seem to be hundreds of interns is unusual.

Below was the statement released by ISPR

Here are some photos

The question to ask is why does ISPR have so many interns and what do these children learn while spending the summer at ISPR? Are they being trained to become the future troll army?

Khan govt. Hires new Washington Lobbyist, who also worked for Israel & has fewer governments as client

Lobbying for Pakistan in Washington has never been a simple affair. The PPP government hired Benazir Bhutto’s friend Mark Siegel who famously delivered $1.5 billion in annual US funding for Pakistan for five years (though most of those funds were never actually received) and helped smooth over relations during the Osama bin Laden fiasco. 

Most other attempts to make Pakistan’s case in Washington have been handled by ISI through illegal and ineffective means whose only effects were to land their agents in jail and set back Pakistan-American relations. This week, however, Imran Khan decided to return to the practice of hiring professional lobbyists in Washington as Pakistan’s Ambassador Asad Mohammad Khan signed a contract with American lobbying firm Holland & Knight.

Holland & Knight is a global firm with a large lobbying practice. Though they do not appear to represent many foreign governments in Washington, instead being mostly business lobbyists, this could mean that Pakistan will receive more attention. Curiously, their website notes their “strong commitment to the state of Israel,” and the firm was hired earlier this year to represent Israel’s diplomatic mission in the United States. It is a curious partner for Pakistan, but is this a bad thing?

This is a bold move by PTI government, but certainly one that must have been taken with the full understanding of risks and rewards. And it is probably only Imran Khan and PTI that could be confident enough to set aside stereotypes and conspiracy theories to hire Israel’s lobbyists as Pakistan’s lobbyists also.