More sanctions & More isolation for Naya Pakistan

The Naya Pakistan of Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing more sanctions and becoming even more isolated than Purana Pakistan and it appears as though there is nothing Islamabad (or Rawalpindi) can do about this. 


On December 22, 2017 the United States Department of State had placed Pakistan on a Special Watch list of “Countries of Particular Concern” for “severe violations of religious freedom.” The press release of the State Department noted: “In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. Today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief, worship in accordance with their religion or beliefs, or be free from coercion to practice a particular religion or belief.”


One year later, on Tuesday December 11, 2018, the United States has moved Pakistan from the Special Watchlist and added its name to the blacklist of “Countries of Particular Concern.” Nine countries remained for another year on this list “China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan” with Uzbekistan being removed from the list but kept on a watchlist.


According to a news report “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the US government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.”


The timing of the full designation “may be jarring as it comes after Pakistan moved to resolve its most high-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October releasing Asia Bibi — a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy. The government recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal.”


Pakistanis is on the “greylist” of the global anti-terrorism taskforce, the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) for not acting against terrorists. It is on the blacklist of the US State department for violations of religious freedom. The Pakistani passport ranks 102 out of 104 in the 2018 Henley Global Passport Index, just above Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pakistani Rupee has been in freefall for the last week and there appears to be little choice before the government but to go to the International Monetary Fund for a record 23rd bailout since 1988.


If Imran Khan’s government seeks to move Pakistan forward, they will need to take concrete action instead of sloganeering.

Whither Pakistan 70 years after UNDHR

Seven decades after the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNHDR) where does the land of Muhammad Ali Jinnah stand. That is the question asked at a public lecture hosted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).


In a statement issued the HRCP expressed its gravel “concern at the exponential rise in the number of recommendations Pakistan has received from its peers with respect to human rights concerns in the country. In 2008, it received 51 recommendations, of which it accepted 43 and rejected eight. At its second UPR in 2012, Pakistan received 167 recommendations, of which it accepted 126, “noted” 34 and rejected seven. ‘It is encouraging to note that many of the recommendations “supported” in principle under the third UPR relate, among others, to the reduction of poverty and inequality; to making enforced disappearance a criminal offence and ensuring that all allegations of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions are thoroughly investigated; to ensuring that all perpetrators of torture are brought to justice; to ensuring the right to a fair trial for all; and to preventing impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers.”


The theme of the lecture organized at the Dorab Patel Auditorium “was to assess Pakistan’s performance during its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2017. Under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, all member states are given the opportunity to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to meet their human rights obligations.”


Attended by civil society, including students, lawyers, human rights activists and media persons, the HRCP noted with concern “that Pakistan has chosen to “note”, rather than “support” key human rights principles such as reporting the investigation and prosecution of security forces that commit human rights violations and abuses; amending discriminatory laws against marginalised groups, including women and girls and ethnic and religious minorities; protecting the rights of the child more effectively, particularly during counter-terrorism activities; desisting from issuing death sentences and executing juveniles; and taking effective measures to prevent the abuse of blasphemy legislation and the use of violence against religious minorities.”


The HRCP urged the state of Pakistan “to commit to its willingness to continue cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanism, and to apply both in principle and practice the UPR recommendations it has “noted” as well as “supported”. By 2022, the country’s human rights record must be seen to improve substantially – not merely to uphold an international image, but because these principles are part of the state’s moral and responsibility to its citizens and residents under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory.’”

‘Naya Pakistan’ & ‘Madina State’ are Excuses to Avoid Acknowledging Mistakes

A Naya Pakistan will be created the day Pakistanis acknowledge past mistakes, and move forward. It will not be created by looking back at some mythical past.


Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly spoken about how Naya Pakistan will resemble the 7th century state of Madina. Starting from his inaugural speech of August 20th the Premier has mentioned this on more than 11 different occasion. As academic and commentator Pervez Hoodbhoy notes in a recent article, “To create a prosperous welfare state is an admirable — and universal — objective. Serving the needs of their citizens without prejudice, a few modern states already have operational systems in place. To join them, just five minutes of serious contemplation can tell you what needs to be done here in Pakistan. It’s almost a no-brainer: eliminate large land holdings through appropriate legislation; collect land and property taxes based upon current market value; speed up the courts and make them transparent; make meritocratic appointments in government departments; change education so that skill enhancement becomes its central goal; make peace with Pakistan’s neighbours; choose trade over aid; and let civilians rule the country rather than soldiers. That’s pretty hard! Implementation shall need no less than a revolution, bloodless or otherwise.”


Further, he notes, “if Imran Khan wants to emulate the Madina state as a political entity, it will be way trickier. Modern states have geographical boundaries, a practice that followed the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) between European powers. But for the Madina state, borders were irrelevant — where you lived did not matter. Is Imran Khan’s goal to adopt the Madina state’s laws and emulate it as a political entity?”


Furthermore, “what about judicial matters? Shall laws of the Madina state apply in naya Pakistan? Viewed through the prism of history, the accord negotiated by the Holy Prophet was perfectly logical at a time of bitter intertribal wars. The interested reader may consult Dr Tahirul Qadri’s PhD thesis on the Misaq-i-Madina. This lists 63 rules for determining diyat (blood money); ransoms to settle tribal feuds; life protection for Muslims and Jews; apportioning of war expenses; etc. These led to peace within the framework of Arab tribal justice. But justice is an ever-evolving concept in every culture and religion. So, for example, 2,000 years ago, Aristotle had argued that some individuals and races are “natural slaves” better enslaved than left free. And, until 200 years ago, socially respectable Americans were slave owners. Kinder ones treated slaves better but slave-owning is now viewed as utterly abhorrent.”


Finally, “The world of yesterday and the world of today bear no comparison. One marvels at the Holy Prophet’s sagacity in negotiating a better deal for all warring Arabian tribes. Still, we should appreciate just how different the world has become from those times. The combined population of Makkah and Madina was less than Kharadar’s, a typical Karachi neighbourhood. Joblessness and lack of housing were non-issues; air pollution and load-shedding hadn’t been conceived; and white-collar crime was awaiting invention centuries later. No police or standing army existed in the Madina state. There were no jails. It is easy to see why certain religious slogans appeal to the popular imagination. In a country that is deeply unequal and plagued by huge class asymmetry, people yearn for an unblemished past when everything was perfect. But when political leaders promise to take us there, how seriously should we take them? The masses had responded favourably when Gen Ziaul Haq had raised a similar slogan in the 1980s — that of Nizam-i-Mustafa. Disappointment soon followed. Can it be different this time?”

Asma Jahangir honored

In early December 2018, Asma Jahangir, noted Pakistani human rights activist and advocate, was posthumously awarded the 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize.


In an editorial the Daily Times stated: “Jahangir famously opposed military dictators like Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf and resisted their efforts to muzzle freedom of the press, undermine universal franchise, and basic human rights. Most importantly, she gave voice to the marginalised and oppressed sections of the Pakistani public. Jahangir was a dedicated feminist who stood for the equality of all the genders. She vehemently opposed Ziaul Haq’s Hudood Ordinance which blurred the lines between adultery and rape and punished women who had been sexually violated. The Hudood Ordinance was passed in 1979, and within a few years, the jails were filled with women accused and convicted under the Ordinance. These laws took 27 years of a legal and political struggle to amend them. Jahangir led this struggle from the forefront but also helped the women incarcerated because of the Hudood laws. She often took cases of women which pitched her against the powerful families, feudal and the religious elites. Pakistan’s minority groups will always remember how she picked up cases of the blasphemy-accused – the people who would have otherwise languished in jails without an attorney or murdered extra-judicially.”


Further, “Jahangir’s struggles exposed her to threats, physical attacks, and abuse. Recently, she also came under fire on social media. She dealt with these hate campaigns laced with lies and propaganda with her signature courage and panache. Some sections of the press and religious elite didn’t even spare her in her death. Therefore, it is crucial that the young men and women of today who have seen Jahangir oppose power-wielders and patriarchy should also note how much respect she earned in the international fraternity. Her effort as a lone warrior and the loudest voice against bigotry must be remembered. Jahangir has left a rich legacy that needs to be honoured and built upon. She will always be a role model for human rights defenders and democrats.”

Kartarpur corridor is not the opening chapter in a new India-Pakistan relationship

We at New Pakistan have always supported the need for good relations between Pakistan and all its neighbors, including India. However, the Kartarpur Sahib corridor opening is not the opening chapter to a new relationship between India and Pakistan. The corridor is being hailed by some as a good step and by others as hypocrisy.

The Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is a gurdwara in Narowal District, Punjab built on the site where Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and where he breathed his last. The gurdwara is close to the India-Pakistan border.

For decades, Sikhs have demanded that India and Pakistan collaborate to build a corridor linking Kartarpur Sahib with Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district. The Kartarpur corridor involves a road link for Sikh pilgrims to visit the famous Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan, which is around three-four km from the International Border.

On Wednesday November 28, Prime Minister Imran Khan performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the the four kilometre-long Kartarpur Corridor.

What we want to ask the Prime Minister and his government is what is the rationale for your support for the corridor? Is the reason economic – Pakistan desperately needs money and so you want Western countries and India to provide aid and investment and support at international institutions?

Or are you genuinely interested in improving ties with India?

If the latter then at least say sorry and apologize to all those Pakistanis who for decades advocated for normal relations with India, including people like Asma Jahangir, who is no longer with us.

Further, if Naya Pakistan of Imran Khan really wanted to improve relations then they would act on the issue of terrorism. It was the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks this week and action against the Lashkar e Taiba and other affiliated terrorists would have affirmed the desire for normal relations much better than a pilgrimage corridor for just one community in Indian Punjab.

What is also interesting is that the Urdu population of Sindh that has family in India has for decades demanded a corridor with India but there is no sign that one will be built on that border.

So the only people the establishment will build open the border for are Sikh pilgrims coming to Punjab? Why?

In this context the presence of Gopal Singh Chawla, the pro-Khalistani leader, who “had earlier stopped Indian officials from visiting a Gurudwara in Lahore to meet Sikh pilgrims who had travelled from India” confirms this suspicion. Mr Chawla was seen conversing with General Qamar Javed Bajwa on the sidelines of the ground-breaking ceremony.

Could it be that a new deception game is being played where Pakistan once again wants to support Khalistan and create problems for India.  If that is so then nothing has changed.