Why Does Pakistan Block Protest/Awareness Camps for Baloch Missing Persons?’

According to an Amnesty International Report of March 2019, titled ‘Pakistan: Enduring Enforced Disappearances,’ “Enforced disappearances have long been a stain on Pakistan’s human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalize the practice, there has been slow movement on legislation while people continue to be forcibly disappeared with impunity.”

According to Pakistan’s Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) there are 2178 cases unresolved to date. As per the Commission’s recent monthly report “48 cases disposed of in the month of January 2019, included 46 traced persons out of which 29 were returned home, 10 were traced to internment centers, five are in jails on terrorism charges and two were described as “dead bodies”.”

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance “has more than 700 cases pending from Pakistan. The number of cases of victims of enforced disappearance recorded by victim groups are much higher. Victim groups and the civil society have serious concerns with regards to the effectiveness of Pakistan’s COIED, primarily that it is not using its powers to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable and that it does not have civil society or the victim groups representation on its board.”

According to Amnesty “groups and individuals targeted in enforced disappearances in Pakistan include people from Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun ethnicities, the Shia community, political activists, human rights defenders, members and supporters of religious and nationalist groups, suspected members of armed groups, and proscribed religious and political organizations in Pakistan. In some cases, persons are openly taken into custody by the police or intelligence agencies, and families trying to find out where they are held are denied information by the authorities. Some victims are eventually released or their whereabouts are disclosed to their families but they continue to be held in arbitrary detention including in internment camps. Those forcibly disappeared are also at risk of torture and death during captivity.”

On July 30th, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement protesting against the recent government notification “that civil society organizations such as Voice of Baloch Missing Persons now require a no-objection certificate (NOC) to hold missing persons camps. Restricting people’s right to protest peacefully in this manner is grossly unfair. Such requirements imply that the people who set up these camps can now be prosecuted merely for voicing their demand that missing friends and family members – as possible victims of enforced disappearance – be located. The restriction only compounds the injustice. We urge the government to remove this requirement and to focus on eliminating the problem of enforced disappearances rather than devising new methods to suppress dissent.”

Imran Khan Admits Pakistan is host to Terrorists’

In astonishing admissions, during his visit to Washington DC earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran Khan admitted that there were 40 different militant groups and over 30-40,000 militants operating inside Pakistan.

While addressing a Capitol Hill reception hosted in his honor, Khan stated, “There were 40 different militant groups operating within Pakistan. So Pakistan went through a period where people like us were worried about could we survive it. So while the US expected us to do more and help the US win the war, Pakistan at that time was fighting for its own existence.”

Further, Khan asserted “We were fighting the US war on terror. Pakistan has nothing to do with 9/11. Al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan. There were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. But we joined the US war. Unfortunately, when things went wrong, where I blame my government, we did not tell the US exactly the truth on the ground.”

Earlier that morning while speaking at the DC-based think tank United States Institute of Peace, Khan said “Until we came into power, the governments did not have the political will, because when you talk about militant groups we still have about 30,000-40,000 armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir.”

For the sake of Pakistanis and Pakistan one hopes that these admissions will be followed by real, tough and consistent action against all these terror groups. But we would not bet on that.

Khan’s Flattery Moves Trump but will Love with US last?

During his recent trip to Washington DC, PM Khan has used flattery and praise to appeal to US President Donald Trump in the hope that US-Pakistan relations will be mended and financial and security assistance restored to Pakistan. Pakistan’s security establishment has also offered to help the US in Afghanistan if military aid is restored, Pakistan is removed from FATF and some economic assistance provided.

Washington: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, July 22, 2019, in Washington. AP/PTI Photo(AP7_22_2019_000220B)

Khan may claim that his Naya Pakistan is better than Purana Pakistan, but in reality, as well-known author and columnist Mohammad Hanif wrote, the country is more like a dictatorship with a civilian garb. “Imran Khan campaigned to become prime minister on the promise that he would create a “new Pakistan.” The country was going to be like the state of Medina that the Prophet Muhammad founded — a welfare state — Khan promised. Less than a year after coming to power, he has delivered a new Pakistan, and it looks like a struggling dictatorship.”

According to Ali Salman Alvi “It was more like a job interview than a state visit by the premier of a ‘sovereign country’ to the United States. When Imran Khan, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, met President Donald Trump recently, he looked nothing short of a candidate desperately searching for a job, when no alternative vacancy is available, underqualified for other positions, unable to make ends meet by using the available bank balance.”

According to Pashtun leader and analyst Afrasiab Khattak, Pakistan should be wary of praise from the Trump administration as “US & other big powers have always favored martial law as it offered ‘one window operation ‘ in pursuit of their objectives. Democracy is messy, noisy & difficult. But what is good for Pakistan? As a new state only federal democratic system can hold it together. Don’t forget 1971.”

As Max Boot wrote in Washington Post the recent Trump-Khan summit is “a cover for Trump to conclude a peace deal that would result in a U.S. pullout — and a likely Taliban takeover in Kabul. This helps to explain Trump’s transparently insincere flattery of Pakistan. As he said, “We’re working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves.” So it was that last week Trump crowed: “After a ten year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” In fact, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has been living in plain sight and has been arrested — and released — multiple times. This is part of the charade that Islamabad plays: It both sponsors and fights terrorism, depending on whatever is most advantageous at that moment.”

On New Year’s Day 2018, President Trump had “called out Pakistan last year when he tweeted: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.” Yet when he met Khan Trump claimed, “Pakistan never lies,” thereby confirming Pakistan’s estimation of our leaders.”

According to Boot, “Why would Trump reverse himself so completely and unconvincingly? Trump always wants to tell whomever he is talking to whatever that person wants to hear. Trump is incapable of seeing the big picture and unwilling to listen to advisers who do. He is focused on a pullout from Afghanistan, and he is convinced that if he flatters Pakistan, it will make it possible for the United States to exit “with honor,” as Richard M. Nixon said of the Vietnam War. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is aiming to conclude peace talks by September, even though the Taliban refuses to lay down its arms or even talk directly with representatives of the Afghan government. Pakistan has an interest in facilitating an American exit from Afghanistan: This would allow its proxies, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, to take over. But as usual, Trump has no idea he’s being played. The sucker thinks he’s the con man.”

In the end as author and commentator Mr Husain Haqqani has written “A very happy Pakistan PM Imran Khan must remember Trump’s affections are as fickle as his. Trump praised Imran Khan tactically and called Pakistan a ‘big country’. He could someday turn around and remember that India is even bigger.”

Media trial instead of actual investigation

Another media trial appears to be in the making this time around former Chief Minister of Punjab and senior leader of PML-N, Shahbaz Sharif.

According to a story in The UK paper Mail “Shahbaz Sharif during his tenure as Punjab chief minister embezzled millions of pounds out of around £500m that Britain’s Department for International Aid has poured into the province for upliftment projects. According to the report, a substantial chunk of the money for the rehabilitation of the victims of the 2005 earthquake was also diverted into the personal accounts of the PML-N leader and his family through an elaborate money-laundering scheme.”

Shahzad Akbar, special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, “at a press conference on Monday displayed copies of pay orders as evidence that millions of rupees had been illegally transferred from the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority to a company owned by Mr Sharif’s son-in-law.”

According to an Editorial in the Dawn “If proven correct, they could call into question DFID’s oversight mechanisms and imperil its development aid to Pakistan, which is the largest recipient of its international funding.”

The Dawn’s questions are relevant, “one wonders why the government did not hand over what it believes is incriminating evidence for NAB to investigate, rather than extending robust cooperation to a British tabloid — that too one which has been successfully sued several times. when the government has taken a strong position against media coverage to convicts and prisoners under trial, why was the writer of the MoS story given access to an individual arrested by NAB on suspicion of money laundering? And why was DFID’s earthquake rehabilitation funding directed towards Punjab at all when the brunt of the disaster was borne by people in KP and Azad Kashmir? One also hopes the government will be more forthcoming about how money was allegedly siphoned from funds handled by Erra, a federal authority, for the benefit of the then Punjab chief minister.”

And Dawn warns, “the matter seems to have become yet another media trial which does not strengthen the perception of an accountability process free of political bias.”

PTI’s Role as Junior Partner to ISI in Witch-Hunts and Repression

The PTI government of Mr Imran Khan appears to be doing everything he promised he as Mr Clean was fighting against: media censorship, suppression of freedom of expression, and witch hunts against opposition.

According to author and journalist Zahid Hussain “Few leaders have seen such a steep fall from a high pedestal within months of coming to power. A panic-stricken prime minister seems to have lost all sense of proportion. His most recent harangue in the National Assembly and his midnight address to the nation leave one wondering about his capabilities when it comes to navigating the country through the present financial and political morass. It’s a Greek tragedy unfolding. It was reminiscent of the sordid game that has long plagued Pakistani politics when the prime minister recently met some opposition legislators reportedly willing to cross the floor. A federal minister claims there were many more from Punjab waiting in line to shift their political allegiance.”

According to Husain, “Khan’s ‘Wasim Akram-plus’ seems to have finally blossomed into a fine craftsman engineering defections within the opposition ranks. Mean­while, a dexterous provincial governor through a ‘magic wand’ is said to have won enough numbers to change the PPP government in Sindh. “It’s a matter of time when the PTI will form the government in the province,” boasted a federal minister. What was unholy in the past has now been declared kosher under the rule of a self-proclaimed crusader against corruption. It’s certainly not awakening conscience that compels the opposition members to revolt against their ‘corrupt’ party leaders. Those of us who are familiar with our sleazy political culture know well how political engineering is done. There is no difference between the infamous ‘Changa Manga’ episode and the ‘Banigala’ meeting though the mechanics may vary. It is so pathetic to see PTI ministers hailing the turncoats selling their political loyalty.”

Finally he warns “One lesson of history that Khan should have learnt is that neither horse-trading nor political witch-hunts can provide stability to the government. It is a siege mentality that he needs to break for his own good. Facing a vociferous opposition is also part of the democratic political process.”