Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pakistan - Dr Ishtaq A Malik guilty of corruption worth Rs 1.8 billion by US courts -PM NAWAZ's Unsuitable Appointments

The Prime Minister’s office has given the go-ahead on the appointment of Dr Ishtaq A Malik as head of the Human Organ Transplant Authority (HOTA) – a man that has been already found guilty of corruption worth Rs 1.8 billion by US courts. According to reports, Federal Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar and Principal Secretary to PM Fawad Ahmed Fawad were both directly involved in this appointment, which means that the questions must start from them.
HOTA is an institution that can save lives, or lose them, depending on who works for it. Someone who has been involved in mega-corruption scandals is obviously not suited to take the wheel. A person found guilty of making fake medical claims, makes it reasonable to assume that he might use his authority to grant organs to those that are lower on the list, or even deny them to those that need it most.
This appointment can only mean one of two things. Either the PM’s office is not aware that the person appointed is corrupt – which means there aren’t any proper screenings before appointments – or someone within was aware and made the appointment regardless.
To remedy this, the government must first cancel the appointment and choose someone more suited to the task. The bureaucratic set-up is already riddled with corruption, and doesn’t need another individual convicted of this in its ranks. The idea is to improve accountability and decrease corruption, instead of making things worse. A transparent inquiry must also be carried out – one that is impartial and actually manages to identify the person responsible for this appointment, instead of petering out mid-investigation due to a lack of results.
Maybe the government thinks that this institution is not as important as the others, and does not merit enough screening for those appointed; or it assumes that appointing a personal favourite might slip under the radar because HOTA’s work is not as prolific as those of many other governmental departments. This is not the case. Reversing this decision is paramount.

Pakistan’s minorities under attack

By Sana Ashraf 

On 16 February, a suicide bomb ripped through the shrine of 12th century Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan — a town in Sindh, Pakistan — while the traditional Sufi whirling dance and meditation called Dhamaal was being performed. The bomb came after a series of attacks throughout Pakistan in the same week and was the deadliest of all.

Pakistan has few sites of tolerance and inclusivity open to the middle and lower classes. The shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was one of them. The shrine is also frequented by people from across Pakistan’s religious denominations: both Sunni and Shia Muslims worship there, as do Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis. Despite increased regulation and enforced segregation of Sufi shrines in Pakistan since the 1970s, the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine has continued to host diverse crowds of Pakistanis throughout the year.
Pluralism and inclusivity is at the heart of Muslim Sufi practice, which has been branded as ‘divergent’ by both Saudi-funded Wahhabi groups and the so-called Islamic State (IS), who claimed to be behind the attack. It is the most recent in a spate of attacks on Sufi temples and Sufi adherents over the past few years. The attack was a message that extremists will not tolerate any pluralistic practice of religion in Pakistan.
Following the Sehwan attack, major Sufi shrines across the country were closed for security purposes, although many worshippers at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar were not deterred. The Dhamaal was performed, as usual, the very next day, with an outpouring of public support from many Pakistanis including public figures and activists who joined the daily ritual. Yet, despite the rage and disgust expressed by many Pakistanis in response to the slaughter, criticism of Sufi practice poured in from popular religious scholars and their urban middle-class followers. Many in these conservative religious communities see Sufi shrine culture as a corruption of ‘pure’ Islam.
The past few decades have seen the space for religious expression shrink for Pakistan’s religious minorities. Since 2006 there has been an increase in violent attacks on not only Sufi shrines, but Ahmedi mosquesChristian churchesHindu temples and Shia mosques. Behind the violence are organised militant groups such as IS, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and other factions of the Pakistani Taliban as well as mobs of self-proclaimed moderate Sunni Muslims who are otherwise non-militant. While there are different — and often rival — groups behind the attacks, the common aim seems to be the elimination of religious minorities.
In the aftermath of the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar massacre the military establishment has rushed to place the blame on Afghanistan, arguing the terrorists are Afghanis and operating with the tacit support of the Afghan state.
Within hours of the Sehwan Sharif blast the Pakistan army had boasted of killing over 100 terrorists. There has been no explanation as to how these people were located within a few hours of the blast, or why were they not found earlier. More disturbing is why the military or the government felt justified in performing on-the-spot executions without investigation.
The government is now seeking constitutional support to reintroduce the recently expired military courts. The efficacy of these courts in eliminating terrorism through swift and unmonitored hearings is highly questionable. They also operate in direct contradiction of the legal right to an independent and impartial trial enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution.
Promises of a renewed resolve to fight the terrorists and of immediate retaliation by the Army and Rangers are all too familiar to Pakistanis. After every such incident, increased security measures are taken to appease the infuriated masses. Until recently, the military crackdown on terrorists had appeared to have worked: Terrorist attacks were sharply reduced, and security appeared to have improved. The strategy has also worked on other fronts: the military enjoys high levels of public support for their strong stance and prompt efforts against terrorism. Yet in light of the latest attack, many are now questioning the effectiveness of the broader National Action Plan in combatting terrorist activity in Pakistan.
But the government and military’s public responses gloss over their selective fight against the terrorists and their support of certain extremist groups for their own political gains. The government has been negligent of the religious scholars spreading hatred through various forums despite the National Action Plan’s aim to address the issue of hate speech. Known extremist religious leaders such as Molana Abdul Aziz, who has openly praised IS, and many others continue to preach freely. There have been several incidents in which government authorities have failed to provide security to minority communities despite blatant threats of attacks directed towards them.
So long as the military establishment, government officials and political leaders continue to pursue their own political interests at the cost of Pakistan’s religious minorities, peace, tolerance and co-existence will be hard to achieve.

Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims Under Attack - Nobel laureate Abdul Salam's cousin killed in Nankana Sahib

An advocate and local leader of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiya was gunned down as unidentified armed men opened fire at him in Nankana Sahib on Thursday morning.
Advocate Malik Saleem Latif and his son Advocate Farhan were on their way to court when unidentified men fired at them, killing Latif on the spot.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, a duty officer at Nankana city police station said, Latif was killed as a result of the attack near Beri Wala Chowk. He added that no application for the registration of an FIR has been filed thus far.
According to Jamaat-e-Ahmadiya spokesperson Saleemuddin, the father and son were on their way to court for the hearing of a case when the incident occurred. The spokesperson revealed that Latif, who was the president of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiya, Nankana city, was also Nobel laureate Dr Abdus Salam’s cousin. “Advocate Latif was killed because of his religious beliefs,” Saleemuddin said. One of the sons of the deceased is a civil judge in Lahore.
On Wednesday, an annual report was issued by the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, claiming that at least six Ahmadis were killed in Pakistan in 2016 because of their religious beliefs. Saleemudin, the spokesperson for the group, cited Ordinance XX which later came to be known as the Blasphemy Law as the main reason behind targeted killings of Ahmadis. “Since its [Ordinance XX] imposition in 1984, so far 250 Ahmadis have been killed,” he complained.

#Pakistan - Youhanabad lynching: Christian suspects asked to convert in return for release

A prosecutor has reportedly asked members of a minority community facing trial in an anti-terrorism court over lynching of two men that he ‘can guarantee their acquittal’ if they renounce their faith and embrace Islam, rights activists claim.

Some 42 Christians have been charged with lynching the two men after twin suicide blasts targeting a Sunday Mass in two churches in the Christian neighbourhood of Youhanabad in Lahore on March 15, 2015.
Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with a mob lynching the two men, suspecting them of involvement in the blasts.
“Taking advantage of their presence at ATC-1 Lahore, Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah gathers the accused outside the courtroom and asks them to embrace Islam,” said Joseph Franci, a rights activist who was involved in providing legal assistance to the accused in the case. “He asks them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case,” Joseph said.
The activist said they [the accused] remained silent and were dumbfounded and added that one, Irfan Masih, had spoken out and said that he was ready to be hanged if he embraced Christianity.
Naseeb Anjum Advocate, counsel for some of the accused, told The Express Tribune said that the public prosecutor’s offer was not new and added that he had also given this offer to some of the accused about six months back but they simply ignored it.
“They [lawyers] believe in independence of the court, but why is the DDPP blackmailing them?”
“The government should get rid of such elements that bring bad name to the state by such acts.”
Syed Anees Shah, when contacted, at first said that he did not ask them to embrace Islam, but conceded that he offered them a choice when he was told that the accused have video recording of what he said. Later, he disconnected the call in an attempt to avoid discussing the issue.

Pakistan - Kaira accuses government of pre-poll rigging

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Punjab President Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira has on Thursday accused government of pre-poll rigging, reported Dunya News.
Qamar-uz-Zaman expressed his views in a media talk at PPP leader Manzoor Wattoo’s home in Lahore.
Kaira said that federal government is announcing new projects despite the fact that it does not have money to complete old ones. He further said that why are our courts not aware of the pre-poll rigging that has already been started by the government?
He demanded that instead of making next elections controversial, work should be done in order to make them credible.
Commenting on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s press conference, Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira said that Imran Khan made a vigorous speech and once again accused that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and PPP are in a deal. He said that Imran Khan is mistaken if he thinks he would not get any competition from PPP in the next election.
Kaira said that his party was going through the process of reorganization. PPP is still standing on its principles and will emerge as a big party, he stressed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Video Report - Hillary Clinton Defends Reporter After Tense Exchange with Spicer

Video : Hillary Clinton Speaks at Professional Business Women of California Conference (FNN)

‘Arming Saudi Arabia & Bahrain risks complicity with war crimes’ – Amnesty to Trump

US President Donald Trump should cancel impending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, since this could put civilians in even greater danger and implicate the US in war crimes, Amnesty International said in a letter sent to the president.
“The deals would arm members of a military coalition that has attacked thousands of civilians in Yemen and violated international humanitarian law,” the human rights group said in a press release published on Tuesday.
The organization noted that its experts found unexploded US bombs and “identifiable fragments of exploded US bombs” among the destroyed civilian buildings in Yemen.
If the US approves the deals while banning Yemenis from coming to the US, it would be like “throwing gasoline on a house fire and locking the door on [the] way out,” according to Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA executive director.
“The US should not continue to arm governments that violate international human rights and humanitarian law and simultaneously shut its doors to those fleeing the violence it escalates,” she said.
“Arming the Saudi Arabia and Bahrain governments risks complicity with war crimes, and doing so while simultaneously banning travel to the US from Yemen would be even more unconscionable. President Trump must not approve this arms deal,” she said.
On Wednesday, President Trump held a meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi delegation hailed the meeting as a “historical turning point” in US-Saudi relations, “which had passed through a period of divergence of views on many issues.” 
Speaking to RT last week, Ahmed Benchemsi, communications and advocacy director at Human Rights Watch’s Middle East & North Africa division, said that the US, UK, and France should stop selling weapons to Riyadh.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is “increasingly unsustainable” and urgent action must be taken by both sides in the conflict, he said, adding that the situation is turning into a “deep humanitarian catastrophe.”
Saudi Arabia’s coalition, which also includes Bahrain, began the military operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to bring the ousted government back to power.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the impoverished country, the UN reported in late February, while seven million people are close to starvation.

Yemen At War: Is the world catching on to Saudi Arabia’s crimes?

Catherine Shakdam 

Yemen has entered the third year of a conflict that has claimed well over 10,000 people, saw millions of civilians displaced, and endangered the lives of countless communities across the country.
For all intents and purposes Yemen has been decimated by a military onslaught of gargantuan proportion - one of the poorest nations on the planet versus an alliance of several superpowers. Western capitals have bought themselves several dark chapters in the history books … how they will be remembered, and one may hope judged, will very much depend on how they proceed moving forward.

'Two years of bloodshed': Tens of thousands march in  against Saudi-led 
There are still crimes the world will not stomach without offering resistance. Resistance as it were, is what has animated Yemen for the past two years, and pushed a nation on the brink, to manifest a movement that saw the bending of the might of imperialism.
In this military embrace, Yemen’s rights to think itself sovereign and independent were forfeited so that Saudi Arabia’s hegemonic folly could be quenched. But no matter, Yemen’s story has yet to be written. It would not be the first time a minority came to overpower the multitude majority, Alexander the Great comes to mind.
Let us remember here that it was the kingdom that unilaterally chose to invade Yemen’s skies, and from the comfort of its war rooms rain death on unsuspecting civilians.
However loudly Riyadh will posit that Yemen’s war is righteous and fair, reason … and hopefully decency, dictate we frown before the slaughtering of a nation whose crime was to argue democratic reforms at the court of a tyrant.
Yemen was earmarked for utter annihilation for it dared speak political self-determination in the face of Saudi Arabia’s grand Wahhabist complex - that monster Western capitals insist on turning a blind eye to so that money could flow freely to its coffers.
I recall how back in September 2015, only five months into this conflict the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) rung the alarm and compared Yemen to Syria - in hindsight I would say that the parallel was uncanny. “In just five months, the country is crumbling into a ‘Syria-level crisis,” read a statement.
After all, like Syria, Yemen has been the victim of wholesale terrorism; only in the case of Yemen, terror was rationalized by the arm that bore it - Saudi Arabia. I will remind readers that slapping a flag and a national anthem on fascism - if we can label Wahhabism under such term, does not legitimize its ideology.
A country interrupted by war, famine, abject poverty and altogether despair, Yemen forever remains the one bleeding scar in the Middle East few media have dared shine a light onto for fear of challenging Saudi Arabia’s media blackout.
It is impossible today to look upon Yemen and pretend that abominable war crimes have not been perpetrated in all impunity. I would personally argue, like many others that impunity in this particular case should be understood as a euphemism for amoral cover-up.
Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich, an independent researcher and author from Irvine, California, put it quite brilliantly in her interview with Tasnim News agency this March when she noted: “What is undeniable is the fact that those who ‘promote human rights’ are the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, including the genocide in Yemen. To deny their complicity is to deny humanity.”
But there may be light at the end if this tunnel. Hope lies in those truths that are now rising to the surface so that the world could be told Yemen’s war from the perspective of the people.
The conflict has devastated Yemen's economy and spurred a humanitarian crisis, with civilians unable to afford shelter, food or medicine, and aid groups powerless to reach vulnerable communities,” writes CNN.
Hope lies in speaking Yemen’s pain out loud so that the reality of Wahhabism - this abomination born in the burning sand of the Nejd (homeland of the House of Saud) could finally be looked upon as the root-cause of terrorism in the world.
Hope lies, bear with me, in identifying those enemies of humanity who, in the name of control, built a terror that’s shadow stretches over the Greater Middle Eastern region today. Yes, I am pointing a very angry finger at Riyadh and its cohort of hate-induced sectarian exclusionist for whom political stability rhymes with genocide.
Hope lies finally in admitting to Yemen’s war reality and the litany of war crimes 26 million souls were made to endure. Dr Riaz Karim, founder of the Mona Relief Organization confirmed to me this March over 18,000 men, women, and children in northern Yemen, have been slain since March 2015.
Whatever tally the United Nations has admitted to pales in comparison to reality. Reality is harsh in Yemen … much harsher than we can fathom if we consider that seven million people stand today at death’s door on account of famine,” he said. 

Religious freedom, not money, should drive West in dealing with Saudi Arabia

By Dr. Joseph D’Souza

During the past 20 years, eight British universities -- among them Oxford and Cambridge -- have taken more than $292 million from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic governments. These contributions represent “the largest source of external funding to UK universities,” according to the director of Brunel University’s Center for Intelligence and Security Studies.
This phenomenon is also not isolated to the United Kingdom: Harvard alone has received more than $30 million from the Saudi government.
Stop and think about this.
Money used to fund professorships, scholarships and centers of study is coming from regimes with long histories of violating religious freedoms. As well-intentioned as the contributors might be, it is clear these contributions are not arriving without strings attached.  A cynic might say that they are buying off professors and universities in order to advance their own agenda, even while forbidding similar activities within their own countries. They are happy to exploit Western freedoms in order to strengthen their own theocracies.
They’re not just doing it via the academy, either.
Saudi Arabia also plays a significant role in the establishment of mosques -- the centerpieces of Muslim communities -- across the world. According to a hearing conducted before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security in 2003, the vast majority of mosques in the United States were then under Saudi influence. In all, it is estimated that Saudi Arabia has spent more than $100 billion to spread the country’s worldview.  
Saudis want and enjoy freedoms around the world, but we must ask ourselves: Where is the equal religious freedom offered by the Saudi government toward people of Buddhist, Hindu or Christian faith, or even atheists, in their own country?
Rather, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most oppressive regimes in the world when it comes to freedom of conscience. A recent USCIRF report on the country says Saudi Arabia “continues to prosecute, imprison and flog individuals for dissent, apostasy, blasphemy and sorcery.” The Kingdom has been designated as a “country of particular concern” by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Not long ago, I learned about a group of Indian Christians who were arrested in Saudi Arabia during a raid conducted on a private home worship service. While they were all eventually released, the Saudi authorities notified them that their permits for working and living in the country would not be renewed. Once they expire, the Indian Christians have to leave the country.
On the other hand, right now an extremist religious preacher wanted by the Indian government -- who has received massive funding from the U.K. and Saudi Arabia -- enjoys safe haven in Saudi Arabia.
And while cases like these freely happen in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is allowed to funnel billions of dollars to countries to promote their brand of Islam -- that exportation certainly contributed to the 9/11 attack on New York.
This hypocrisy must end. The free exportation of extremist ideologies -- religious or atheistic -- is what drives people to violence and the curtailment of freedoms.
The international community must adopt a reciprocal approach to religious tolerance in response to those nations that abuse our freedoms while forbidding freedom among their own. It is high time that the West, with its evolved understanding of freedom of conscience and liberty, begins to ask for this kind of reciprocity in bilateral relations with nations.
The “Religious Freedom International Reciprocity Enhancement Act,” introduced last July to the U.S. Congress, is an example of the type of action that nations may take to protect themselves from the inadvertent importing or exporting of ideology promoting bigotry, intolerance and persecution. The act would forbid a national of any country that limits the free exercise of religion from spending money in the United States to promote a religion. Money is also raised in America and the U.K. among diaspora communities to fund religious extremist groups (not just Islamic groups) in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
More countries need to adopt similar and other measures now that three-quarters of the world’s population lives in a country “with high or very high restrictions or hostilities” on the freedom of conscience.  
Religious tolerance and the freedom of conscience and belief are cornerstones of human rights affecting all other rights. We must hold nations accountable for the safeguarding of these freedoms, and those who restrict them ought not to be able to freely promote their ideology -- in any form -- abroad.
America needs to act and not be focused on economic considerations only.

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Naheed Akhtar Shab E Gham Mujhse Milkar Aise Royi

Pakistan's Rtd General Raheel - Saudi slave - ''Some questions''

Defence Minister Khwaja Asif tried to deal with a highly sensitive matter in a most casual manner when he disclosed in a media interview that the government has informed Saudi Arabia, in writing, that the recently retired Army chief General Raheel Sharif would soon assume the command of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT). It may be recalled that many eyebrows were raised when a while ago reports surfaced that the General had accepted the Saudi offer to head the alliance. The issue was taken up by the Senate where the Defence Minister said no such request had been received, and that he would inform Parliament of any development in this regard. Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had also promised to make a statement about foreign policy implications of the appointment if and when it happened. Those assurances have now been cast aside, apparently, to avoid having to answer difficult questions. But the issue is not going to go away. The PTI has strongly opposed the decision, reminding the government that at the time the Gulf states had asked for troops for their Yemeni campaign, Parliament had refused to oblige saying Pakistan must not get involved in a Middle East conflict. The party is now preparing to raise the matter in Parliament.
Right from the outset, Pakistan's participation in the alliance has been a subject of serious concern in this country. The government itself at first had shown surprise to find its name included in it, and hesitated to join in. It was in view of the special relationship with the kingdom, nonetheless, that it gave its nod. The underlying unease has been that it would compromise this country's longstanding policy of staying neutral in Middle Eastern affairs, and also undermine its domestic sectarian harmony. It was explained then that Pakistan's role would be only training and capacity-building of the IMAFT force. After the present decision, it is a whole new ballgame. There are some key questions: Will the IMAFT headed by a former chief of Pakistan Army be actually implementing the policy of Riyadh, the alliance leader? Will it - in any manner - add to Pakistan's own defence capacity and capability particularly in relation to its traditional rival India? Will he be able to help unite the Muslim world riven by sectarian divides in accordance with how Lieutenant General Nasir Janjua (retd), the country's national security adviser, sees former army chief's appointment? What is government's response to some analysts' argument that it, as a matter of expediency, has landed the Army in an awkward situation through acceptance of Saudi offer or request?
These questions are about Pakistan's interests. And what constitutes Pakistan's 'national interest' must be clearly spelled out by our leadership without any further loss of time. The present issue is a test for the foreign policy establishment's diplomatic skills. Ways need to be found to manage the situation without causing damage to the relationship. Meanwhile, the government has to go to Parliament and explain why it has allowed the general to take such a decision.

#Pakistan - #SHAME ON RTD GEN RAHEEL '' Chief of a phantom army ''

It is now official. Retired Gen Raheel Sharif will soon be taking over the command of the so-called Islamic army that is still to take shape. The ambiguity surrounding the decision to lend the services of the country’s former army chief to Saudi Arabia has finally been cleared. The defence minister has confirmed what has been rumoured for the past several months.
But there is still no word from the retired general on his new job; nor is there any formal policy statement from the government on Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition of 39 countries. Things are certainly not as simple as Khawaja Asif wants us to believe, that the government has allowed the former chief of army staff to accept the appointment on the Saudi request.
This decision needed much more serious thinking as it implicates Pakistan in a highly contentious situation. Let along it being debated in parliament, it is apparent that the government has not even taken the cabinet into confidence on this critical issue that has a direct bearing on our national security and foreign policy. The secrecy surrounding the move raises many questions about our policymaking process. The argument that the government could not refuse the Saudi request makes us appear more like a client state.
What has added to the confusion is the impression that it was simply a job offer to the former army chief, and that the government was only supposed to give him clearance and waive the restriction stipulating that military officers cannot accept a foreign assignment for two years after retirement. That makes it more imperative for both the government and Gen Raheel to clarify their positions. It is unprecedented for a former Pakistani army chief to seek a foreign assignment and that too immediately after retirement.
How can the government now resist the possible demand to contribute troops to the coalition force?
Whatever the truth may be, the government’s approval indicates a clear departure from our policy of not getting involved in the Middle East power game. It is that much more intriguing as Pakistan has yet to decide what role it will play in the coalition force. A Pakistani heading it will inevitably place us in the hotspot and drag the country into a conflict that we have thus far kept out of, thereby endangering our own national security interests.
From the outset, the very concept of a Saudi-led military bloc is divisive, given the deep involvement of the kingdom in the Middle Eastern civil war. Unilaterally announced by Riyadh last year, the so-called Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism is still a phantom force with no clear structure or well-defined objectives. Like many other countries, Pakistan was also taken by surprise by the Saudi announcement of the alliance, also described as a Sunni coalition. There were no prior consultations among the countries that were supposed to be part of it. Pakistan agreed to participate in the alliance, perhaps, in order not to further alienate the Saudis who were already upset at the government’s refusal to send troops to Yemen on their behalf.
Interestingly, the Saudi initiative came weeks after the Pakistani parliament unanimously rejected Riyadh’s request. Pakistan, however, made it clear that its participation in the alliance would be limited and it would not commit any troops. But one wonders how Pakistan can keep its promise with its retired army chief heading the force. How can the government now resist the demand that may come next, to contribute troops to the coalition force? All these questions must be clarified.
Some of the contradictory statements coming from the senior cabinet ministers reinforce the doubts that no serious thinking was done before taking the decision. While divulging the information during a TV interview, the defence minister was evasive on the question whether the decision would affect our policy of maintaining neutrality in the Middle East crisis. Understandably there has not been any reaction from GHQ on the issue.
Adding to the confusion were the remarks made by another federal minister, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, who advised Gen Raheel not to accept the controversial position that could harm his reputation. Similarly, some other senior members of the ruling party insist it was the former army chief’s own decision to take up the job. But there is no answer to why the government is compelled to grant him the permission if it was not in the country’s interest. The opposition parties are justified in asking the government not to issue him the NOC.
Perhaps the strongest defence came from National Security Advisor retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua, who believes that Gen Raheel’s appointment provides a great opportunity for Pakistan to work for the “unity of Muslim Ummah”. He dismissed the argument that the decision would adversely affect Islamabad’s relations with Tehran.
Some other reports, quoting senior government officials, maintain that there has been high-level consultation with Iran on the issue and that Tehran has no objection to Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led alliance. However, the veracity of the reports about Tehran’s approval cannot be confirmed. Iran has been publicly critical of the Saudi initiative that it perceives as being directed against it.
Surely Iran’s concerns cannot be ignored given the ongoing proxy war in the Middle East. But that is not the only point to consider in the argument against Pakistan becoming an active participant in the Saudi-led coalition. It is simply not in the interest of the country to get involved in any outside conflict.
Another critical question is; why does a supposed counterterrorism alliance need to raise a multinational military force? If it is only a consultative body and intends to develop a unified counterterrorism strategy, then why the need to have a retired general to lead a ghost force? One expects the government to respond to these questions. Any decision based on external pressure jeopardising our national security must not be acceptable.