Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes with China?

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes with China? We believe we have turned a new corner by shedding our reliance on America and becoming closer to our neighbor to the East, but will that allow us to continue past behaviours without facing similar consequences? These are questions that require immediate attention if we are to enjoy the full benefits of CPEC and our strategic alliance with China, and current events warn of looming problems.

On the strategic side, Nawaz Sharif appreciated China’s support in the fight against terrorism, a critical issue during a time when terrorist attacks have once again sky rocketed in Pakistan. Only yesterday there was another suicide blast in Lahore, showing that the militants have much more ability than official statements give credit for.

However if we ask whether China is actually on the same page as our own civil military leadership when it comes to terrorism, there is reason to worry. Chinese authorities have continued passing tighter restrictions on Muslims including banning long beards and burkas. Chinese officials are worried about infiltration of extremist ideology, a problem that the Chinese have blamed Pakistan in the recent past. There is also the question of China’s international anti-terrorism fight. It is also becoming clear that China is secretly working with Kabul in fight against Taliban in Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, our position is less clear. We are united against ‘terrorism’, but we are not united about who is a terrorist. While there are question marks around how Osama bin Laden was able to live outside PMA Kakul without being detected, Sartaj Aziz has famously admitted that we hosted Taliban leadership in Pakistan. Pakistani militants have been killed fighting alongside Taliban in Afghanistan, and JUI-F General Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Wednesday even invited Taliban to join his party.

We have not forgotten the past, but our memory has become cloudy and confused as incidents and actions have been buried under decades of conspiracy theories and  ‘narratives’ invented to retell history in a way that favours what we want to believe. In the past, we wanted to have close relationship with America, but support Taliban also. Eventually, this destroyed our relationship with the Americans who saw us as playing a double game. Now we have replaced US with China, but we have kept the Taliban as our ally. However, China also sees Taliban as a threat just as America does also. Will our unwavering support for Taliban destroy our relations with China also?

Proof that Pakistanis are World’s Greatest Human Rights Defenders

Shireen Mazari Human Rights Defender

Once again, international human rights NGOs, media, and even the UN have Pakistan in their sights. As usual, we are accused of ignoring human rights violations. How can this even be possible? As I will now prove to you, Pakistanis are not human rights violators, actually we are the world’s greatest human rights defenders!

Liberals note the abuse of blasphemy laws for land grabbing from religious minorities in Pakistan, but does this mean that we don’t care about minority land rights? No! Many Pakistanis take out massive rallies against land grabbing by Israel.

International media prints reports about an epidemic of violence against women in Pakistan, including cases of rape going unpunished. However, ask any Pakistani man and he will tell you in deep forensic detail about rapes and other abuses faced by women in India.

Human Rights NGOs spread stories about Pakistan security agencies killing unarmed youths and murdering journalists, but does that mean we are ignoring abuses of security agencies? Absolutely not! Obviously these NGOs are the ones ignoring the outcry in our own media against abuses by security agencies in America.

Now once again the UN is pointing fingers at Pakistan over the mysterious disappearance of activists, just like they have pointed fingers over missing persons in Balochistan.  Liberals are pointing at social media trends like #WhoAreTheyDefending and #MissingOrRAWterrorists to say that we don’t care about enforced disappearances. Not true! We have been leading all efforts to raise awareness about enforced disappearances in Kashmir.

It is clear that all accusations are part of a world wide conspiracy to defame Pakistan. The proof is clear to anyone willing to admit facts. Pakistanis are the world’s greatest human rights defenders…for everyone except Pakistanis.

Benazir Bhutto: A Force of History

Benazir Bhutto in a crowdWe can agree or disagree about many things in our country’s history, but the effect of Benazir Bhutto on our nation is indisputable. From her unexpected rise to power to her tragic assassination, Benazir Bhutto changed the path of our country.

In many ways, she put the country back on track after Gen Zia sent us wildly off course. As first woman PM, she showed half the country that they are also important parts of society and can reach the highest points of power. However it was her courage and vision that touched the hearts of even her strongest critics.

“In 1988, at the age of 35, Bhutto became the youngest prime minister in Pakistan’s troubled history, and the first woman to lead a Muslim nation in the modern age. For her supporters, she stood for women’s empowerment, human rights and mass education. Her detractors accused her of many things, from corruption to being too close to the U.S.

During her second tenure as prime minister, Pakistan became one of the 10 emerging capital markets of the world. The World Health Organization praised government efforts in the field of health. Rampant narcotics problems were tackled and several drug barons arrested. Bhutto increased government spending on education and 46,000 new schools were built.

Thousands of teachers were recruited with the understanding that a secular education, covering multiple study areas (particularly technical and scientific education), would improve the lives of Pakistanis and create job opportunities critical to self-empowerment.”

Today, she is gone from this Earth in body but her courage and vision has stayed in this country and is found in other those such as Mukhtar Mai, Malala, and countless other women who refuse to cower in the face of threats. Her vision for a modern Pakistan can even be found in the political slogans of her former opponents such as when Nawaz Sharif promised to turn Pakistan into a new, modern and developed country. When Pakistan’s enemies killed her, they ended her life, but they underestimated her once again. Benazir Bhutto was more than a person, she was a force of history and her spirit will always outlive her enemies.

Raid on Ahmadiyya HQ shows deep roots of religious hatred

arrestPrime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s move to rename Quaid-i-Azam University’s (QAU) physics department to the Professor Abdus Salam Center for Physics and create a new programme named the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship must be appreciated as an important step in reversing the historical trend of religious bigotry and intolerance. Even The New York Times has noted the landmark decision. However we must not allow such moves to giving the incorrect impression that the situation for religious minorities is improving, especially the beleaguered Ahmadi community.

This was made clear when the day after PM’s declaration, masked gunmen from Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) violently raided Ahmadiyya headquarters in Rabwa. The CTD officers forced their way in while beating up a guard before manhandling and arresting several innocent people accused of ‘terrorism’ for printing magazines intended for Ahamdis. The officers seized materials from the offices as well as abusing the individuals there. It should also be noted that despite incorrect claims from religious extremists, no weapons or hate material are mentioned in the FIR.

PM’s action is appreciated, but the raid shows just how difficult will be the process of countering powerful extremists like Tahafuz Khatam-e-Nabuwat who are claiming responsibility for causing the raid. When will raids be taken against them?

Turn down the heat in Kashmir

armyCross border firing in Kashmir has once again taken a toll. Three Pakistan Army soldiers embraced shahadat, and 7 Indian soldiers were killed on the other side during the latest border flare up.

untitled-1-1479901655Civilians too are loosing their lives.

On Monday, four civilians were killed and 10 others were injured in different sectors along the de facto border while six Indian soldiers were also confirmed dead in retaliatory fire.

India has clearly failed to understand the gravity of the situation, and cannot be expected to take the high road. Pakistan Army has demonstrated both the willingness and ability to give a befitting reply to all Indian aggression, but in order to protect the lives of innocents, we need to take a new approach.

The solution will not be easy, and it will take strength and courage to succeed. In order to save innocent lives, we must find a way to reduce the tension in Kashmir and return some normality to the lives of the Kashmiri people.