Pakistanis Deprived of Butter in Military’s Pursuit of Guns

Pakistan’s economy is in a downward decline, inflation is high, and unemployment is rising. Yet, Naya Pakistan is the 11th largest importer of arms in the world.

According to the annual report released by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), China accounted for 51pc of Pakistan’s arm imports in 2010-14 and for 73pc in 2015-19. Further, Pakistan was among the top three buyers of arms from top weapons exporters like Italy and Turkey. Pakistan had a 7.5pc share in arms imports from Italy in 2015-19, and 12pc share in Turkish arms over the same period.

Pakistani State Losing All Credibility in Trying to Attack Dissent

Countries react differently to dissent, democracies normally accept dissent as criticism not as anti-nationalism or sedition. Pakistan, however, has a history of treating any one who criticizes the country as not just anti-national but an Indian agent.

The Pakistani deep state has long held a deep seated paranoia about the non-violent Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), from arresting its leader Manzoor Pashteen, to preventing the mainstream media from showing their rallies to referring to any PTM supporters as seditionists.

On Tuesday the state broadcaster Radio Pakistan in what most refer to as “an unprecedented move” claimed “that MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir — who are also leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) — were “facilitating anti-Pakistan forces to destabilise Pakistan”. In a brief, two-line news report published by the state broadcaster earlier today, both Wazir and Dawar — who are elected members of the National Assembly from the country’s tribal areas — were referred to simply as “PTM leaders”. Highlighting first that both men had received “special protocol by the Afghanistan army” upon their arrival in Kabul where they were attending the oath-taking ceremony of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, the report goes on to say that they were “fulfilling the vested agenda of India through Afghanistan”, without providing any details to back the startling claim.”

Later, the report was “removed from Radio Pakistan’s website and tweets by the state broadcaster’s official account were also deleted.”

As a Dawn report shows, PTM “has been critical of the state’s policies in the country’s tribal belt, where a massive operation against terrorists was conducted in recent times leading to large-scale displacement and enforced disappearances. PTM’s leaders, in particular its elected members to the National Assembly, have come under fire for pursuing the release of individuals detained by authorities without due process. The army has alleged the party of running an anti-national agenda and for playing into the hands of the state’s enemies. Last year, Dawar and Wazir were arrested by police after a protest gathering in Kharqamar for allegedly using violence and clashing with army personnel. This year in January, PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen was arrested from Peshawar’s Shaheen Town for making a speech in Dera Ismail Khan during which he allegedly said that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights. The FIR said Pashteen also made derogatory remarks about the state. A day later, Dawar was arrested briefly from outside the Islamabad press club alongside several other individuals while protesting Pashteen’s detention. Pashteen was later released on bail on January 25.”

Attacks on Aurat March, Attacks on Pakistani citizens

Pakistan’s constitution provides equal rights to half its population – women – but in reality ever since the 1950s, Islamist ideologues and organizations have been allowed to dictate state policy. This fear of women seeking their rights was visible on Sunday on the occasion of International Women’s Day, when Islamist groups and their supporters physically attacked the Aurat March.

Two days before the Aurat March, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had expressed support for the March, and condemned “any attempts to subvert, malign or threaten the march, its organisers, and supporters. HRCP sees Aurat March as an integral part of the collective struggle for human rights in Pakistan and beyond. The depth and breadth of the movement’s manifesto is a measure of its inclusivity. Among its legitimate demands, Aurat March has called for an end to violence against vulnerable groups, including women, children, and transgender persons. It has spoken out against enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and warmongering. It has upheld the right to a living wage, the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and the right to a sustainable environment. These rights are enshrined in the country’s constitution and its international human rights obligations. Above all, they are integral to any sense of humanity, empathy and compassion. The ethos of Aurat March reflects the very values that HRCP has consistently upheld: inclusivity, peace, democracy, and the inviolable dignity of all persons regardless of gender, class, ethnicity, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or identity. Thousands of young women, transgender persons, and men will mobilise on International Women’s Day to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and challenge the inherently discriminatory status quo. This is a matter of pride – not cause for censure – and warrants the full support of the state and citizens alike.”

Yet, on Sunday March 8, the march was attacked by a group of counter-protesters in Islamabad who hurled stones, bricks and sticks at the marchers. “It was a coordinated attack from the patriarchal and right-wing forces on the women’s movement,” said Ismat Shahjahan, one of the organisers of the event. “We demand an independent judicial inquiry,” she added. The police had registered a case against some 35 people late on Sunday, including organisers of the anti-feminist rally for “provoking the religious sentiments” of their followers against the Women’s Day marchers. The march’s organisers, however, have argued that the police downplayed the severity of the attack and should have included more serious charges against suspected assailants.”

Human rights organization cautions against spread of communal violence across South Asia

February 2020 witnessed the worst anti-Muslim pogroms in India’s capital Delhi after the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement that spoke about the “grim situation in Delhi – where violent mobs have seemingly been given a free hand by the administration to lynch citizens from the minority Muslim population, to burn their property, and attack mosques – is highly deplorable. This is happening at a time when the people of Kashmir have already been under siege for seven months.”

The HRCP noted that, “the Delhi violence and Kashmir siege warrant the international community’s immediate attention. Both developments have made minorities across South Asia increasingly vulnerable. We have witnessed equally violent reactions to such events in the past. Communal violence in South Asia does not occur in a vacuum. There is often a domino effect that causes state violence against minorities in one country to trigger violence against that minority in neighbouring countries. Our shared history, languages and cultures, and the fact that all South Asian states are bound to uphold their citizens’ human rights, should serve as collective strengths.”

Thus, the HRCP called on the international community and on all governments “to make every effort to treat all minorities as equal citizens, and to guarantee their protection and wellbeing across the region.”

Is Pakistan ready for the twin economic and health care crises from Coronavirus

The Imran Khan led PTI government may keep repeating ad nauseum that Pakistan is well prepared to deal with any consequences of coronavirus but the reality is the opposite.

As an editorial in the Dawn states it is only with the official admission that Pakistan has 2 cases that the government has started to act but it has a massive problem on its hands. “For one, state-of-the-art quarantine and treatment facilities are needed in virtually all districts with special instructions to healthcare staff on how to manage COVID-19 patients. At present, there are only five quarantine facilities in the country — two in Islamabad, two in Rawalpindi and one in Karachi. This is clearly not enough to deal with a potential outbreak. Suspected patients being transported to these facilities from the rural areas will have plenty of time along the way to transmit the virus to others. The pace of diagnosis should also be speeded up, while equipping at least some of the more reputed health facilities to test patients for COVID-19 would ease the burden on the National Institute of Health that is currently conducting most of the diagnostic tests.”

Further, as the Editorial notes “all levels of the healthcare system — national, provincial and district — will have to work in tandem under a clear, comprehensive, globally accepted strategy. Anything less could be a recipe for disaster— and Pakistan, with its myriad health challenges, such as the resurgence of polio, has so far not proved itself adept at tackling crises.”

An investigative report in Dawn looks at the upcoming economic crises. “Dawn’s investigation reaffirmed that no structured exercise to identify the most vulnerable sectors/segments or quantify the possible impact on trade, manufacturing and growth has officially been undertaken so far. Most officers in the Ministry of Planning, industry, Federal Board of Revenue and customs were caught unaware when Dawn approached them.”

Further, “Pakistan is clearly ill-prepared to deal with the possible impact of the epidemic crisis in China that may take time to subside. It can lead to supply chain disruptions, amplify the inflation and suppress consumer and business confidence, rattling the fragile economy and dragging the low GDP growth rate further down. There is an uneasy calm in business circles. Private companies are exploring alternatives to source their raw material and merchandise, despite the price differential as reports of growing global anxieties over the epidemic trickle through media. All efforts are directed to minimising the chances of panic in the retail market, securing the market share and keeping manufacturing units operational.”

Finally, “Prime Minister Imran Khan has offered to assist China in the fight against the virus but back home his government has yet to absorb the gravity of the risk to the struggling economy. There is a halfhearted effort to assess the impact but the requisite strategy is not even in the works. The Planning Commission has yet to initiate an exercise to quantify the possible impact on trade, manufacturing, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and GDP growth. The focus in the finance ministry is on the expected savings in the oil import bill with the price dip and using it to improve the fiscal balance. If that deprives the people and businesses of the price benefits, so be it.”