Pakistan’s Screwed Up Priorities

You would think that Pakistan has learned its lesson after all these years. You would hope that finally, the custodians of this state have decided to put the prosperity of the people ahead of their egos and pretentious nationalism. But it seems we may never live to see that day.

Just when Pakistan is preaching to the world about peace, “Nazism,” and “averting nuclear war,” its military has chosen to send a message to India and the world. Probably anticipating war on the Kashmir front, they tested a nuclear ballistic missile with the sinister name of “Ghaznavi,” named after the Afghan Turkic warrior emperor Mahmud of Ghazni, who invaded several Hindu temples in India.

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Ironically, the government plans to send a very different the next day with observing its first-ever Kashmir Hour. Something that they want to model after the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel as a part of the rhetoric strategy of the government.

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The recent posts comparing Modi with Hitler and RSS with Nazi Party are evident of that notion.

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Many people supportive of this form of protest believe that it will project a positive image of the nation around the world. However, the appropriation of the Holocaust and Nazi rhetoric is far more problematic than PTI can imagine. But let’s ignore that factor for a second and let’s appreciate the non-violent line of protest Pakistan is taking.

Still, acts such as intimidating India with nuclear ballistic missile tests with this symbolism is not only disturbing but duplicitous. It does not add any confidence whatsoever in a nation which holds the reputation of not staying true to its word whether it comes to eradicating terrorism or supporting or financing terrorism from its soil.

Then again, the international community is not naive enough not to understand the state of democracy in Pakistan. They are aware of the dual narrative from the Pakistan military and the civilian government. But the Pakistani citizens satisfied by this line of rhetoric by the Prime Minister should really be disappointed by the recent missile test. Because there goes your image of being a peace dove in the region.

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How Pakistan Observed the International Day of the Victims of Religious Violence

Source: Reuters/Hindustan Times

When the UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared August 22 as a new UN International Day for the victims of violence based on religion and faith, Pakistan was certainly a country that came to mind. It is an open secret that Pakistan holds a dismal record of offering all its citizens equal rights and the freedom to practice its religion. For years now, Pakistan has been on the list of countries of most concern by the United States State Department and there are good reasons behind it. Pakistan’s problems with its minority religious communities date back as early as 1953, if not earlier.

While you would expect the Government of Pakistan to introspect on this day and actually vow to start making amends with the minority citizens, they spent the day lecturing India instead. In continuation of its campaigns condemning the Indian administration and comparing it to the Nazi Party, the Prime Minister reminded of the “ethnic cleansing” in Kashmir.

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The Minister of Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, who should be the responsible office-holder for responding for the rights of the citizens that have been attacked on the basis of their faith.

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She instead was busy writing to the UNICEF complaining that actor Priyanka Chopra should be removed from her position as a Peace Ambassador for some imaginary offenses.

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This was a great opportunity for the Pakistani administration to concede all the wrongs done to the minority religious communities in Pakistan, especially the most frequently targeted Hindus and Christians. And mentioning

Pakistani American Ahmedi activist Kashif Chaudhary made sure to remind the government at least about the state of Ahmed

 

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He also mentioned the ridiculous notion of the President of an Islamic Republic, who would never dare to utter the word “secular” in connection with his country, worried about the decaying state of secularism in India. I agree with him.

 

 

While Pakistani nationalists were celebrating the meeting of President Trump with Prime Minister Imran Khan, the very same leader listened to someone these patriots would not stand. Trump met with an elderly Pakistani expatriate Abdul Shakoor, who represented the persecuted Ahmediyya community of Pakistan settled around the world. Shaan Taseer, human rights activist and the son of slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, accompanied him to translate his message to the President. The poor man was sentenced to five years in prison with a heavy fine for selling religious books. He informed the President that he could not identify as a Muslim in his native Pakistan but he can in the United States.

 

The current US administration is in particular interested in religious freedom around the world. Vice President Mike Pence has issued a statement during a religious freedom summit rebuking Pakistan for the state of its religious freedom and urged the government to release Professor Junaid Hafeez accused of blasphemy. However, it was a shame that President Trump did not publicly bring the religious persecution in Pakistan during his meeting with the Prime Minister.

Other than that, there is no count of the number of people abused and killed from the Hindu and Christian communities which are routinely targeted by the majority religious community. The forced conversion of Hindu and Christian girls is on the rise too and the local law enforcement is proving to be inadequate for either providing security or justice to the affected citizens, who are effectively second class citizens in Pakistan.

You can only hope that an administration that claims to be very tolerant toward the minority religious groups of Pakistan would know better than imaginary standards of social justice like “Riyasat-e-Medina” or the Medina State. You can only hope that they would have the sense to address the problem in their country first because that is the least what their citizens expect from them and lecture India on Nazism and fascism later. Otherwise, you can only hope that the United States should finally take a stand and threaten Pakistan with sanctions.

Why You Should Be Wary of Pakistan’s State Propaganda About Kashmir

Source: Dawn

Following the shocking move of the revocation of Article 370 that grants special autonomous status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Government in India has cracked down on civil liberties. The state has been in a virtual state of a shutdown for more than 10 days and restrictions such as suspension of landline are recently being eased.

The Central Government in India has incarcerated the major political leaders including former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, his son Umer Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti. The Hurriyet leaders are a no-brainer. The state is under a communication blackout to this day and only one major protest has been tolerated to date. Anyone within India and outside with concern about democracy and human rights was appalled by the situation. However, the malicious Indian right-wing in their urge for greatness have sadly turned a blind eye to this coercion.

Of course, this sudden and shocking development slowly provoked a negative reaction in Pakistan. The country’s ruling party PTI came back with a Modi/Hitler and BJP/RSS/Nazi Party analogy campaign. They and the Prime Minister are still going in full flow against the Modi administration. This came after a rather mellow speech from the Prime Minister in the joint session of the parliament, in which he criticized the “fascism” of the Indian government and for locking up the entire opposition. This immediately attracted criticism and right after the speech, the PML-N leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif accused him of being a worse oppressor of the opposition than the Indian government.

However, many commentators did not take a lot of time to point out that Pakistan had little credibility to lecture India on violation of democracy and human rights, thanks to its own dismal record at home. Currently, Pakistan is making headlines around the world on curbing the press while jailing the entire opposition and other dissenting activists. Designed to appeal to its global audience, the bombardment of tweets of its social media team of copywriters and graphic designers on overtime were particularly embarrassing and disconnected to history.

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While there is little doubt about the fascism of BJP, it is more comparable to that of the Pakistani Islamist nationalists supportive of the Pakistani military and the PTI itself instead of Nazis in Germany. And if we are at comparisons of Nazi’s treatment of the Jews, the treatment of Ahmedis in Pakistan strikes an eerie similarity. Furthermore, Pakistan has done far worse in East Pakistan, tribal areas, and Baluchistan than what India can ever hope to do in Kashmir. The following tweet is actually more accurately reflective of how the right-wingers on both sides are indeed coming together to validate the two-nation theory.

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There are a couple of reasons why the Pakistani administration’s official narrative reeks of intellectual dishonesty. Pakistan does not recognize the problem created by the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits (Native Hindus) from the valley. Furthermore, analysts such as Tariq Pirzada are openly inciting violence or genocide against any Hindu citizens that settle in Kashmir. Aren’t elements of Pakistan promoting communal supremacy in the State too? And if that is not the case, why is the mention of Hindu Pandits absent from the communication of Pakistani propaganda.

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Now you can dismiss this as an opinion of an individual but the Pakistani state has backed Islamist militancy in the State for a long time. Not only this influence has resulted in the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the State but has also seriously hampered the legitimacy of the Kashmiri struggle for autonomy.

Some of the Kashmiri Pandit opinion leaders on social media, especially the notable actor Anupam Kher, often sound bitter and quite a few of them have been cheerleading the draconian measures of the BJP government in Kashmir. However, such voices should not mislead the focus on the need to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. Any political resolution in the valley is incomplete without their voices.

Pakistan’s so-called moral case of Kashmir on the international forum is plagued with its own share of hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty. The following tweet of the Pakistan Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, lauds China, Pakistan’s usual partner on the Security Council forum, for “as always standing up firmly on principles and upholding international law.” Though you can be pretty sure that Madame Ambassador would never have bothered to call China out on the treatment of Uighur Muslims (something where PTI’s Nazism and “Final Solution” analogies are conveniently missing) since she is such a huge proponent of principles and upholding international law. Even though some people would be laughing at a Pakistani diplomat invoking principles and international law.

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Pakistan would like you to believe that India is already committing. There is some degree of truth to the targeting of Kashmiri Muslims by the Indian state in recent years, well before the Modi administration, but the Islamist trends in the Kashmir separatist movement are the major reason behind them. To this date, the Prime Minister is continuing his tweets to condemn Narendra Modi as Hitler and his party as Nazis. That also raises questions about the maturity of this narrative. Does this mean that Pakistan has rejected the Indian administration and will not engage in talks with them for peace in the future?

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Pakistan has already taken the issue with the United Nations, which has disapproved of India changing the status of Kashmir. But that is where its influence ends for now. While it is positive to see that India is being held accountable at some kind of international platform for its recklessness but that still does not legitimize the reckless misrepresentation of facts and intellectual dishonesty of the Pakistani Prime Minister and the ruling party who could themselves be criticized for their own fascism any given day.

The Science of Religion

Source: maharishiyagyaprogram.eu

Perhaps a potentially interesting area of exploration for neurological and psychological researchers is the science of religion: the science of discovering not only how religion wires the human brain in general but how different religions shape it differently. Perhaps it is indeed worth exploring how a Muslim’s brain is wired to work, perceive, and process ideas differently to a Hindu’s brain and how the religious conditioning changes their outlook on life and society. And more importantly, why people following different religions tend to be tribal or communal in their mannerism.

Of course, it would be going too far to suggest that certain channeling of thoughts would bring about a physiological change. But would it be too far off to suggest that this channeling of thoughts would force certain neuron routes in the brain which could have existed in another state had this intervention not occurred? Would it not inspire or prevent the construction of new patterns of cognitive practices which otherwise would not emerge? Or is it possible that instead of the subtle differences between the religiosity of a Hindu sadhu or a Sufi ascetic and an orthodox Muslim cleric or a Jewish Rabbi, the wiring of the brain would only be apparently different between a religious dogmatic and a rational agnostic?

I know it may sound like an unworthy subject for such a deep exploration but it is of little doubt that these different belief systems nurture a completely different set of behaviors altogether. There have been works which acknowledge the impact of religiosity and spirituality on the human brain, effects of prayer, and explore the neurological basis of religion, but can we study the impact of different faiths? The only problem with this idea is setting up science to “evaluate” religions and their impact on society. However, there must be a way to do so without political controversy as unlikely as it seems.

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that factors such as religious upbringing or inspiration can shape a person’s personality to be a certain way. However, what do we mean when we say that? It definitely implies a pattern in which that person behaves and thinks with certain individual nuances in the context of that cultural tradition.

The politics of such a study is indeed going to be controversial in the postmodern era with many likely to be jumping to comparing it to a pseudo-science such as eugenics in terms of being discriminatory to religious communities. However, it is not necessary to see this potential study through the lens of morality, of right and wrong, and of virtuous and evil. It will merely be a psychological and sociological experiment with possible physical dimensions if anyone gets to discover them.

But at least questions can be asked. How a person would think if they are told about the existence of God and how would they think if they are told there is no God. What would be their behavior if they were to believe if divinity can take different forms of life and how it would be different if divinity was held to be off-limits to mortal creatures? Would there be a difference if they were raised in a vegetarian culture as opposed to a carnivorous tradition that relishes hunting as a sport? Will any such biases impact whether they are more receptive or hostile to people from another culture?

This indeed sounds intriguing but the future of humanity is not depending on it either.

Tightening the Authoritarian Noose Around the People’s Neck

Source: flare.pk

Pakistan is not a country we should feel proud of anymore. It has increasingly become an entity that is acting hostile to the people it is supposed to stand for. This is clear and evident by the recent curbs on political freedom and freedom of speech in the current year reminiscent of the years of the military dictatorship in the country. However, the comment of the current Chairman PTA, who happens to be a military officer (surprise, surprise) is unprecedented.

The PTA Chairman Maj. Gen. (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa, whose name sounds eerily related to the current Army Chief, said that social media in Pakistan should be blocked in the manner of China and the UAE. He recommended that Pakistan should develop its own social media channels to allow for state censorship and censor inappropriate content. Appointed in December 2018, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, General Bajwa mainly focused on “blasphemous content” to make his case of taking away the right of citizens to use social media to express their voices. If anyone had doubts about democracy being under threat in Pakistan, this statement should remove it.

The Chairman PTA was testifying to the Senate panel examining purported grievances where he remarked that “either the technical abilities of the organization be enhanced or the allow them to block social media websites to stop the circulation of blasphemous material.”  Even though nobody is ever going to explain what a retired general is doing serving this position and one which he is most likely not qualified for, his comments will largely go unaccounted for other than some fringe criticism on the social media of all the places. Nobody is going to mention it on the mainstream media and any criticism on the national news is improbable.

Surely, for the PTA chairman, blocking more than 850,000 porn and news websites are not enough. It is pretty clear that for these state authoritarians, it is not nearly enough. They want to go after the internet itself and if not the internet connectivity to maintain a facade of modernity, they will neuter it to an unusable state-regulated version.

With the launch of CPEC development projects and the rolling out of the optic fiber link from Khunjerab to Gwadar, one of the biggest fears is the Chinese internet spilling over into Pakistan. While thankfully the CPEC projects in Pakistan have appeared to slow down, it has nevertheless inspired the civil and military bureaucratic despots at the reins of administration in this country.

Unfortunately, the narratives these anti-democratic forces have nurtured for the past seventy years have duped well-meaning conservative citizens into believing that their civil rights and political freedoms are bad for them and for the country. Even in the name of blasphemy and national security, there is no shortage of urban nationalist conservatives in the country who would gladly sacrifice the internet as a public enemy.

The greatest tragedy of all is the fascist administration of PTI, a party that was pretty much built by and through the power of social media, other than a little help of our military establishment of late. More than the duplicitous and malicious leadership of the PTI, the people who would be the greatest losers are the urban educated voters of the party who look down upon the traditional and less privileged voters all across Pakistan. The government they voted in might be infringing on their rights but they have a choice to speak up. Pretty soon this little freedom we have will be gone.

Pakistan still has a lot to lose, which it continues to lose every day.

Trump Meets Trump: Why Our Prime Minister is a Joke

Source: Pakistan Today

July 22 witnessed one of the most cringeworthy political moments ever in history. In a rare Trump meets Trump moment, which we can only hope never to see again, President Donald Trump met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. To nobody’s surprise, the two got along very well together. The foreign office declaring the “tour went better than expected,” it is widely hailed as a diplomatic success for Pakistan. Largely due to Trump’s irresponsibility in his bid to impress Pakistan to help with the talks with the Taliban. Trump allegedly falsely attributed Prime Minister Modi requesting US arbitration for Kashmir, other than making a couple of other disastrous statements, especially the one about wiping out Afghanistan off the face of Pakistan.

During the press conference, the two anti-media leaders found good cause to bond with each other. Their mutual disdain for the media in their respective countries, as much as that media has played a role in raising them to the position of power. Even though the dynamics are different in Pakistan, and the media is freer in the United States to really reflect on it, it is food for thought considering their action and reputation as heads of government.

However, the moment that truly laid bare the lies and hypocrisy of Prime Minister Imran Khan was his comment on the curbs of freedom of the press in Pakistan. An answer that should have shocked everyone around the world and present in that room was that the Pakistani media was freer than the British media. Imran Khan said that he had been attacked by the media day in and day out and the notion that “the freedom of the Pakistani press is being curbed is a joke.”

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Pakistani journalists who are already battling every day with the Deep State for their survival instantly slammed this malicious and arrogant comment. An op-ed piece in Washington Post effectively chronicled some of the most prominent curbs on the media in Pakistan probably the very next day. The comment clearly insulted the people of Pakistan who were witnessing some of the worst curbs on their freedom of expression since the Zia regime, arguably the worst dictatorship Pakistan has ever suffered. And there is a reason for that.

Here is the full video of the Trump and Imran Khan meeting.

 

The Prime Minister who supposedly carried himself immaculately through the Fox News interview ended up making a gaffe that the Government of Pakistan would like you to pretend it didn’t happen. While saying that Shakeel Afridi was in the jail for committing a crime that hurt the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and committed treason, that is reporting the location of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, he also claimed that the Pakistani military intelligence ISI had informed the Americans about his location ahead of the attack. Interestingly, that contradicts the position of the state.

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Had Nawaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, or especially Maryam Nawaz Sharif had made that statement, they must have been booked under Article 6 by now. However, the selected Prime Minister can make as many gaffes such as this as possible.

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Speaking of which, for the brilliant, unifying, national leader he is. This was the greatest highlight of his petty, partisan and treasonous speech in front of a crowd made up of Pakistani expatriates in the United States in a DC arena who have no connection to the lives of people in Pakistan anymore. However, what they do have in common with the urban nationalist conservatives. What they were cheering was Imran’s vow to remove the air conditioner from the jail cell of an ailing Nawaz Sharif, the legitimate Prime Minister disqualified before the 2018 elections, who should not have been jailed in the first place.

Considering how things are going downhill in the country since the PTI has assumed office, that DC arena is pretty much the only rally space the selected Prime Minister will be able to fill.

The New Censorship Regime in Pakistan

Source: Pakistan Today

After ten years of relative democracy in the country after General Pervez Musharraf’s resignation from 2008 to the last election in 2018, the country enjoyed an oasis of the explosion of free expression. Again that free expression is an expression to be used in relevant terms. Either way, Pakistan has not seen such flourishing of journalism in its history until the new censorship regime was introduced by the military and bureaucratic establishment.

With the assumption of office of the current military establishment and their subsequent “selection” of the PTI administration under Imran Khan, the censorship of the media has never been escalated to such a degree. Other than the organized harassment campaigns against journalists, the twitter handles of three journalists were forcibly deactivated temporarily by the state agents. Sadly, there is ample data on the web for anybody who wants to write a paper on it.

Journalist Hamid Mir recently held a press conference in which he sounded like a political activist campaigning for rights instead of a reporter. Well, things have gone this bad for journalists in the country and probably more than ever before.

 

Only a few days back, the ruling political party removed all doubts whatsoever as far as its support of the crackdown on journalists is concerned. Many journalists can barely believe that a party that owes so much of its current support to the media.

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Pakistani state agenda’s true representative political party PTI went out of its way to launch a disgusting campaign against press freedom. What they pretty much mean is that if a journalist is not following state propaganda, they are committing treason. Some of the tweets even directly implied that as reported by Dawn.

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The powerful DG ISPR also routinely lectures journalists about what they should report on.

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The ruling party PTI, which rose to power as a result of constant media coverage when it was in the opposition, has routinely blocked coverage to the opposition. Particularly Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a new leader on the rise, protesting with the aim to free her father former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified and jailed following two controversial judgments. Media outlets such as Geo Network have been repeatedly blocked in local cable following the coverage of her rallies. Earlier interviews of President Asif Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif were blocked from the media but the latter was not even mentioned in the mainstream electronic media, which the military and bureaucratic establishment, along with the PTI considers the actual source of public information.

To many journalists, the kind of censorship practiced under the PTI regime even surpasses the standards set by the draconian Zia regime. However, the difference is that this 21st-century censorship continues despite the presence of social media on the parallel. Considering how dissent is considered “treason” by the patriotic lot in Pakistan, wonder when we will see a blanket ban on social media. We know our government has tried that before in the previous administration. The day people finally decide to come out on the streets against this draconian government, that day is not far off either.

Pakistan can become Sudan any day.