Now Iran is Angry too: Why is Pakistan antagonizing every neighbor?

Why is it that every neighbor of Pakistan’s, including our Muslim neighbors, are upset with us? We tend to disclaim anything India says as ‘Hindu India’ defaming Muslim Pakistan. If that is true then why are Muslim brotherly countries like Afghanistan and Iran angry with us.

On the same day that the Pulwama terror attack took place in India, 23 members of Iran’s elite paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps force were killed in an explosion that attacked their bus in Khash-Zahedan sector of Sistan-Baluchistan province.

Iran has blamed the government of Pakistan and asked Pakistan to “not allow terrorists to use their border areas to organise anti-security moves against Iran.” Further, Major-General Mohammad-Ali Jafari of the Islamic Republic Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran said “We will avenge their blood. If Pakistan doesn’t do its duties in this regard, Iran, based on the international laws, has the right to counter the adjacent threats in the neighboring countries and will punish the terrorists that are the mercenaries of regional and extra-regional intelligence services.”

Further, Jafari said “Inasmuch as the Government of Pakistan knows the location of these elements that are dangerous to Islam and should be accountable for the crimes the terrorist have committed, it is expected that they do their duty with seriousness and not allow the terrorists to use their border areas to organise anti-security moves against Iran.”

This is not the first time that Iran has accused Pakistan-based terrorist groups of attacks and this is also not the first time that Iran has threatened to take action.

At a time when Pakistan needs all the friends it can get, maybe it is time we took a deep breath and eliminated all terror groups that operate inside our country.

Pakistan must eliminate Terrorism for its own sake, starting with Jaish e Muhammad

We at New Pakistan have always stood for a stable and peaceful Pakistan at peace with its neighbors. We have always believed that Pakistan needs to eliminate terrorism, the ideology, the individuals and the groups responsible for it, from within its borders.

The recent terrorist attack at Pulwama when an Indian paramilitary force convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber belonging to the Pakistan-based jihadi group Jaish e Muhammad does not augur well for Pakistan. Every time a terror incident occurs in our neighborhood – Afghanistan, India, Iran – it always ends up being traced back to Pakistan.

According to BBC News “Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistan-based group, has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on 14 February in Indian-administered Kashmir. At least 46 soldiers died, making it the deadliest single attack against Indian forces in the region since 1989. JeM spokesman Muhammad Hassan spoke of “dozens of [Indian] forces’ vehicles” destroyed in the attack, when the bomber rammed a convoy in a vehicle filled with explosives.”

Jaish e Muhammad (Army of Mohammad) was founded by Pakistan-based Muslim cleric Maulana Masood Azhar in 1999 soon after he and two other terrorists were set free in exchange for the crew and passengers of an Indian Airlines plane hijacked and flown to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. JeM has been responsible for many attacks in the recent past including the October 2001attack on the state assembly in Srinagar in Indian administered Kashmir, theDecember 2001 attack on the Indian parliament (along with the other Kashmiri jihadi group Lashkar e Taiba), and the 2016 attack on an airbase in Pathankot in Indian Punjab.

Pakistan may officially deny that it has anything to do with the terror attack but the fact that terror groups based inside Pakistan are able to carry out such attacks and still continue to have safe havens within Pakistan is something that it cannot escape responsibility from. As former U.S. Secretary of StateHilary Clinton stated ““You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors. You know, eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”

The global condemnation of the terror attack inside Indian administered Kashmir including from countries that are our allies – Saudi Arabia, UAE, China- should send a message to Pakistan. As long as Pakistan allows Jaish e Muhammad to exist, Pakistan will remain a target for abuse and be increasingly isolated globally.

Anniversary of Pakistan’s Human Rights Icon, Asma Jahangir

One year ago, Pakistan lost one of its leading advocates of human rights and civilian supremacy, noted Supreme Court advocate and founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir. At a time when Pakistanis continue to face the onslaught of the deep state and the media, civil society activists, and academics face constant threats to their rights, Asma Jahangir’s loss is felt deeply.

In a statement released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which she co-founded in 1987, “Today, more than ever, the human rights movement in Pakistan needs a collective conscience. Undoubtedly, were Asma Jahangir still with us, she would have continued to speak up against curbs on freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom of expression. She would have demanded accountability for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. She would have defended the vulnerable and marginalised – women, children, peasants and workers, bonded labour, religious and ethnic minorities, and the transgender community. She would have criticised any electoral mismanagement and judicial hyper-activism, but defended the need for democracy and an independent judiciary. And in so doing, she would be speaking for all those who believe in the inalienability of fundamental rights and freedoms. Over the last year, HRCP has carried this work forward despite the vacuum left by Ms Jahangir. Her imprint remains on the institution she co-founded and the numerous human rights workers she trained. HRCP’s governing body and its staff across the country are committed to continuing Asma Jahangir’s work, and will always remember her spirit and steel. As she herself once quipped, “Human rights is not a job, it is a way of life.” For HRCP, this still holds true.”

An editorial in Dawn stated that Ms Jahangir was “one of the bravest daughters of Pakistan,” “redoubtable defender of human rights and democratic values, champion of the downtrodden, and fierce opponent of repressive forces.” Ms Jahangir “had been schooled in the politics of resistance very early; as a young woman she took on Gen Yahya Khan’s martial law regime in order to have her activist father released from prison. She was a thorn in the side of the next military dictator too, fighting on the streets and in the courts his myriad misogynistic edicts and violations of people’s rights, violations that characterise the ascendancy of anti-democratic forces.”

Further, “it was her sense of justice that must continue to inspire all those who seek a more equitable society. Individual freedoms, she believed, must be protected at all costs. She was undeterred by labels of being a traitor to her religion and her country, the usual emotive tropes so beloved of bigots and hyper-nationalists. When the National Assembly, to its enduring shame, listened in silence while the then prime minister’s son-in-law launched into vile invective against a persecuted religious minority, it was Asma who denounced him for his hate speech. It was also Asma who represented MQM supremo Altaf Hussain after the Lahore High Court banned the media from covering the party’s activities. In so doing, she was defending a basic tenet of democracy — freedom of speech — that everyone, including the MQM, is entitled to no matter what their politics. On that principle she would not compromise, even while faced with angry denunciations from a section of her own fraternity. Asma spoke truth to power, and we must continue her legacy.”

Reality Check: Why Bangladesh is doing better then Pakistan?

As Pakistanis it is rare for us to admit that we need a reality check. How many of us pause to think that the country that Pakistan came out of – India – and the country that came out of Pakistan – Bangladesh – are both democracies but we are not. As Pakistanis we hate comparisons with India but maybe it is time for a comparison with Bangladesh.

In his latest piece, Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy, author and analyst undertakes such an analysis.  According to Hoodbhoy, “Bangladesh’s economic growth rate is 7.8 % compared to 5.8% for Pakistan, its debt per capita ($434) is less than half that for Pakistan ($974), and its foreign exchange reserves ($32 billion) are four times Pakistan’s ($8bn).”

Why is that?

Hoodbhoy argues “much of this growth owes to exports which zoomed from zero in 1971 to $35.8bn in 2018 (Pakistan’s is $24.8bn). Bangladesh produces no cotton but, to the chagrin of Pakistan’s pampered textile industry, it has eaten savagely into its market share. The IMF calculates Bangladesh’s economy growing from $180bn presently to $322bn by 2021. This means that the average Bangladeshi today is almost as wealthy as the average Pakistani and, if the rupee depreciates further, will be technically wealthier by 2020.”

Further, “East Pakistan’s population in the 1951 census was 42 million, while West Pakistan’s was 33.7m. But today Bangladesh has far fewer people than Pakistan — 165m versus 200m. A sustained population planning campaign helped reduce fertility in Bangladesh. No such campaign — or even its beginnings — is visible today in Pakistan.”

And, “The health sector is no less impressive — far fewer babies die at birth in Bangladesh than in Pakistan. Immunisation is common and no one gets shot dead for administering polio drops. Life expectancy (72.5 years) is higher than Pakistan’s (66.5 years). According to the ILO, females are well ahead in employment (33.2pc) as compared to Pakistan (25.1pc).”

So what happened to Pakistan? And Why did Bangladesh do ahead?

According to Hoodbhoy, “Bangladesh and Pakistan are different countries today because they perceive their national interest very differently. Bangladesh sees its future in human development and economic growth. Goal posts are set at increasing exports, reducing unemployment, improving health, reducing dependence upon loans and aid, and further extending micro credit. Water and boundary disputes with India are serious and Bangladesh suffers bullying by its bigger neighbour on matters of illegal immigration, drugs, etc. But its basic priorities have not wavered. For Pakistan, human development comes a distant second. The bulk of national energies remain focused upon check-mating India. Relations with Afghanistan and Iran are therefore troubled; Pakistan accuses both of being excessively close to India. But the most expensive consequence of the security state mindset was the nurturing of extra state actors in the 1990s. Ultimately they had to be crushed after the APS massacre of Dec 16, 2014. This, coincidentally, was the day Dhaka had fallen 43 years earlier.”

Hoodbhoy ends by stating perceptively: “CPEC or no CPEC, it’s impossible to match India tank for tank or missile by missile. Surely it is time to get realistic. Shouting ‘Pakistan zindabad’ from the rooftops while obsequiously taking dictation from the Americans, Chinese, and Saudis has taken us nowhere. Announcing that we have become targets of a fifth-generation hi-tech secret subversion inflames national paranoia but is otherwise pointless. Instead, to move forward, Pakistan must transform its war economy into ultimately becoming a peace economy.”

Pakistan’s Security Agencies use Rape Threats for Intimidation

The Pakistani Deep state has been accused of using the iron fist and suppressing any form of dissent or criticism. The latest accusation, however, crosses all bounds.

Just last week a Pashtun woman from the village of Khaisor in North Waziristan, whose husband and older son had been arrested by security forces, released a video statement on social media, alleging that security forces had repeatedly threatened her with rape.

Amidst widespread condemnation on the social media, a strong statement was issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) against what appeared to be several incidents in the last few days in which state and law enforcement agencies appear to have acted with impunity.

The HRCP stated that “there can be no justification for state agency officials to enter a private home and threaten to rape a woman whose husband and elder son were arrested reportedly in an earlier security operation. While her husband has now been released, this in no way ‘cancels out’ the harassment and rape threats she says she has faced. HRCP is also perturbed to learn from other sources, including an independent team of human rights activists who visited Hayat Khan’s mother immediately after the video was released, that this was not an isolated incident. That rape, or the threat of rape, should be used to force citizens to remain silent in the face of state agency excesses, is deplorable. HRCP strongly urges the government to conduct an independent, transparent inquiry into this incident and make the details public – to put across the message that threats of rape, whether made by state agencies or individuals, and when made under any circumstances, are unacceptable.”