Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Monday, July 15, 2019
Imran Khan is accused of persecuting political opponents and the media under the guise of an anti-corruption crackdown.As Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan approaches the end of its first year, the country is rapidly drifting towards civil dictatorship. The arrest of opposition politicians, a crackdown on the media, and the imposition of a draconian economic policy has been the hallmark of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. This has frustrated hopes of achieving a measure of political stability, which had been expected after July elections last year. During the highly charged 2018 election campaign, Imran Khan’s main promise was to eradicate graft in the country. He pledged to arrest corrupt politicians and billions of dollars allegedly parked by Pakistanis in overseas banks. After coming to power, Khan’s government has arrested opposition politicians, but without any due process. In Imran Khan’s Pakistan, the list of incarcerated politicians is long. Three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is in prison on corruption charges. In June, former president Asif Ali Zardari was arrested on corruption charges. (Khan had openly said in his election campaign that he would ensure the arrest of Zardari and Sharif.) A few days later, Hamza Shahbaz, the opposition leader in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, was also arrested on corruption charges. Furthermore, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, two members of parliament from tribal areas, are in police custody for an alleged attack on an army check point. Neither were allowed to attend the budget session, despite the fact that law requires all members of parliament to attend parliament sessions even if they are being held in prison. The latest victim of this arrest drive was Rana Sanaullah, a provincial president from the largest opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League, or PML-N. Authorities arrested Sanaullah after a huge collection of drugs was reportedly found in his private vehicle. More arrests are expected. The problem is the pattern – no substantive evidence has been produced against any of the arrested leaders. Zardari and Shahbaz were arrested merely on the basis of suspicion, while Sharif serves a sentence in prison handed down by a judge reportedly put under intense pressure by the government. Whereas in the case of Sanaullah, who can definitively say how the authorities in Pakistan came to find drugs in a vehicle of a person who is subsequently arrested for possession? The arrest of political leaders is widely seen more as a witch-hunt and less a genuine anti-corruption drive. The pattern has seriously affected the credibility of Khan’s government. Yet he is showing no hesitation. Instead, Khan last month set up a high-powered inquiry to investigate the rise in Pakistan’s debt across the past decade – to go after the “thieves who left the country badly in debt” as Khan himself put it, “so that no one dare leave the country in tatters ever again”. Yet this latest move is also seen as an attempt by Khan to further persecute his political opponents.At a time when there is no effective opposition left to challenge decision-making, the media seems to be the next target, with the authorities preventing the media from criticising the government. An interview of former president Zardari was stopped from going to air on Pakistan’s leading television channel, Geo News. Journalists critical of the government are facing sedition charges and other intimidation tactics. The social media team of Khan’s party PTI even promoted the hashtag #ArrestAntiPakjournalists on Twitter in an effort to intimidate reporters. All this is a bad omen for government accountability. The PTI was able to passed a budget in June imposing record new taxes on people in a country already suffering due to economic turmoil. (Thousands of businesses joined in nationwide strikes at the weekend in protest.) The value of the Pakistani rupee has fallen significant in the past year, while inflation has skyrocketed. Still, the government has cut development funds and subsidies, while increasing taxes and sharply raising the of cost of domestic gas. What opposition there has been against these budget measures has been led by civil society and human rights activists in Karachi – with the bulk of the opposition and media largely silenced. Ultimately, the cost will be felt by Pakistanis themselves, particularly lower- and middle-class sections. The frustration from this economic turmoil will be especially seen among the youth, with about 60% of Pakistan’s population under the age of 30. There are already fears this will push younger Pakistanis towards extremism. Ultimately, this turn toward civilian authoritarianism coupled with economic turmoil will keep Pakistani politically destabilised. This will make it difficult for the continued development of mega-projects, such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road ambitions, which has already been met with local resistance (The threat within: Pakistan’s ties to China). Khan’s actions therefore appear self-defeating, threatening not only to earn his government the wrath of people at home but also isolation abroad. https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/pakistan-brink-civil-dictatorship
The EU wants to promote trade, regional peace and democracy by tightening its strategic engagement with Pakistan. But does Brussels need to reset its priorities as Islamabad drifts toward authoritarianism?As Iran buckles under sanctions and Afghanistan sinks deeper into violence, Pakistan is a relatively stable partner for the EU in a volatile region. In June, Pakistan and the EU signed the EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan, which creates a forum for regular military-to-military talks on security issues, while promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The EU describes the plan as "a forward-looking and ambitious political framework," involving cooperation on "new and untapped areas such as energy and climate change, education, culture, science and technology."Pakistan sees the agreement as a sign that the EU recognizes Islamabad's efforts in promoting the values of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights.
Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, lauded the agreement after it was signed. "It shows engagement, it shows acceptability, it shows that the West wants to promote its ties with Pakistan," Quershi told DW.
Although it's true that both sides are keen to deepen their ties, serious differences remain. These include deficiencies in Pakistan's attempts to curb terror financing and money laundering, along with its commitment to democratic institutions.
But as the geopolitical situation in the region grows more unstable, the EU is seeking to balance its governance values with strategic imperatives, which include stopping terrorism, and a stronger role in mediating negotiations in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan is seen as an important geopolitical player," said Shada Islam, director of Europe and geopolitics at Friends of Europe, a Brussels think tank.
"So while there are concerns about human rights, women's status, press freedom and minority rights in Pakistan, the EU believes it is important to maintain good contacts with Islamabad. The new engagement plan is an illustration of that approach."
The EU's carrots and sticks
The EU's Pakistan strategy generally follows parallel tracks of reward and punishment. Good behavior from Islamabad is rewarded with tariff preferences like zero duties on two-thirds of all goods under the so-called the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP+.
Since 2014, the GSP+ has given a major boost to Pakistani textile exports. The deal has also brought in foreign revenue in the face of China-driven trade imbalances. Trade with the EU has doubled and the bloc is now Pakistan's biggest export market.
But these economic benefits come with an obligation to uphold the EU's democratic values. Pakistan pledged to ratify and effectively implement 27 core international conventions on human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance. Although Pakistan says it has progressed on implementing national and provincial legislation, the EU has criticized progress as being painfully slow.The EU's ambassador to Pakistan, Jean Francois Cautain, has regularly warned that "Pakistan was failing to take full advantage of the GSP+ scheme."
And considering the wide gaps between Pakistan's promises and actual implementation of the international conventions, it is currently unclear whether the country will continue to get duty-free access to Europe beyond 2020.
Pakistan financing terror?
If the GSP+ arrangement and the cooperation agreement are a step forward for Pakistan's international image, accusations of terror financing are a step back.Last year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global terror financing and money laundering watchdog, put Pakistan on its watch list, meaning that the country has "structural deficiencies" in stopping money laundering and terror financing. The EU reacted with concern, but stopped short of cutting off Pakistan's preferential trade status. The move was supported by the US, France, Britain and Germany. Pakistan barely escaped being blacklisted, thanks to the support of China, Turkey and Malaysia.
Read more: UN places Pakistan-based JeM militant leader Masood Azhar on blacklist
Pakistan fears that an FATF blacklisting would deal a blow to its already faltering economy, making it harder for global investors and multinationals to do business in the country.
It could also have implications for its $6 billion (€5.32 billion) IMF bailout plan. To alleviate pressure from the FATF ruling, Pakistan will have to demonstrate progress in disrupting transactions that finance terrorism and money laundering before the next FATF meeting being held in October in the US city of Orlando, Florida. Pakistan is optimistic that it will meet its obligations and is counting on EU support.
"Our government is sincere in fulfilling the political obligations. The Europeans feel Pakistan has taken sufficient steps in the right direction and downgrading Pakistan would not be helpful. So I am grateful to the European support for Pakistan in Orlando," said the Pakistani foreign minister.
Trouble at home?
Despite this optimism, Western diplomats in Islamabad appear increasingly concerned at the government's capacity to keep its commitments. And the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has been criticized for failing to live up to its promises of a "new Pakistan."More than a year into his government, Khan has yet to convince ordinary Pakistanis that his government has a viable economic plan to take millions out of poverty. Rising food prices, interest rates and currency devaluation are having a cumulative negative effect on the economy. The government blames the corruption of previous governments for the country's ills. Consequently, several leading opposition figures have been arrested, including former President Asif Ali Zardari. Khan calls it accountability, but his opponents say it's a political witch hunt. Private media are accusing the government of muzzling the press. Leading human rights activists and journalists say they have never experienced such pervasive silencing of dissent under a civilian government as is becoming a norm under Khan.
As the EU tries to nudge Pakistan toward a path of regional peace and democracy with the strategic engagement plan, Brussels needs to admit the limitations of cooperation. Khan's government is seen as weak and ineffective, as well as widely dependent on the country's powerful army.
In many ways, experts say, whether Pakistan follows a path of peace and democracy, or drifts toward authoritarianism, is largely up to the nation's most powerful institution, its military.
By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
False rumors that children are fainting or dying have led parents to turn away vaccinators, threatening the campaign to eradicate the disease.The global drive to eliminate polio, which has gone on for 31 years and consumed over $16 billion, has been set back again by a surge of new cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As of July 10, there were a total of 42 polio paralysis cases in the two countries. They comprise a single large outbreak, because most cases are in the tribal areas along the border, where local people easily cross back and forth.Pakistan had 32 of the cases, compared to only three by the same date last year, and the situation is expected to get worse because hot summer weather favors the virus. There were only 12 cases in the country in 2018 and eight in 2017.For each paralyzed victim — usually a child below age 5 — there are about 200 others who are infected and shedding the virus in their stool, the World Health Organization estimates.
About 20,000 children are born each day in Pakistan. In cities with open sewers, and where other pathogens may attach to the same intestinal receptors that the vaccine does, it can take many doses to fully immunize a child.Last year’s hotly contested national elections temporarily threw the program off track as local officials were replaced, said Aziz Memon, head of Rotary International’s polio campaign in Pakistan. Cases have typically spiked during elections and moments of political turmoil, according to an article in The Diplomat, a current affairs magazine focused on Asia.Earlier this year, Pakistan announced that it would streamline its national vaccination drive in June in order to make the campaigns faster and less intrusive. Teams would try a friendlier approach and gather less data on the families they visited, the prime minister’s office said.
But false rumors spread on social media saying the vaccine had triggered fainting spells — or even that it had killed dozens of children — and many families locked their doors to vaccinators or hid their children.
The issue has split families; The Times of London recently described a Pakistani man returning from work and divorcing his wife on the spot after finding their children’s fingers marked with the indelible ink used by polio vaccinators. Islamic law allows a man to end a marriage by merely saying “I divorce you” three times; he threw his wife and children out of the house.As in other countries, like Italy, vaccines have become politicized, with opposition parties spreading anti-vaccine rumors.
Babar bin Atta, the prime minister’s special assistant for polio eradication, said in a letter to the Dawn newspaper that population movements and increasing numbers of refusals were hurting the effort.The country, he said, would try to fix continuing problems with routine immunization, safe water and sanitation, and the high incidence of malnutrition.
Eradicating polio from Pakistan “may take longer than we hoped for," he said.
The virus is threatening to spread to other countries. In May, a sewage sample in a bordering province in Iran tested positive for the strain of virus circulating in Pakistan; Iran had its last case of polio paralysis in 2001.
A further threat to the eradication campaign is that a few countries — mostly in Africa — have been unable to eliminate some mutated strains of the polio viruses used in live vaccines. Those strains have reverted back into forms capable of causing paralysis.
In the last two years, there have been outbreaks of “vaccine-derived polio” in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Somalia.Last week, a sewage sample in western China tested positive for a vaccine-derived polio strain, meaning the virus must be circulating there although no cases of paralysis caused by it have yet been detected.
Xinjiang, the province where it was found, borders on both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Historically, such outbreaks have always been eliminated by the use of injectable killed vaccines, which cannot mutate, and live vaccines that protect against the mutated strains. But the outbreaks in some countries have gone on for many months.
Mumbai terror attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and his three aides were granted pre-arrest bail on Monday by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan in a case pertaining to the banned outfit’s illegal use of land for its seminary.The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Lahore granted interim bail to Saeed and his aides – Hafiz Masood, Ameer Hamza, and Malik Zafar – until August 31 against surety bonds of Rs. 50,000 each, Dawn newspaper reported.
During the hearing, Saeed’s counsel insisted that Jamat-ud Dawah (JuD) was not using any piece of land illegally and urged the court to accept bail pleas.
Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The US declared the LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation in June 2014.The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.Under pressure from the international community, Pakistani authorities have launched investigations into matters of the JuD, LeT and the FIF regarding their holding and use of trusts to raise funds for terrorism financing.
Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court (LHC) issued notices to the federal government, the Punjab government and the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) regarding a petition filed by Saeed and his seven aides, challenging charges of terror financing and money laundering against them.
A two-member bench of the LHC comprising Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry and Justice Mohammad Waheed Khan asked the parties to submit their replies within two weeks.The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab Police on July 3 registered 23 FIRs against 13 leaders of the JuD including Saeed on the charges of “terror financing” in different cities of Punjab province.
Sunday, July 14, 2019
By Alexandra Ulmer, Omar Rajarathnam
Sri Lanka is moving to curtail Saudi Arabian influence, after some politicians and Buddhist monks blamed the spread of the kingdom’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam for planting the seeds of militancy that culminated in deadly Easter bomb attacks.
On April 21, nine Sri Lankans blew themselves up in churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 250 people and shocking the country a decade after its civil war ended.
Sri Lanka has since arrested a Wahhabi scholar and is poised to take over a Saudi-funded school. The government also says it will monitor previously unchecked money flows from donors including prominent Saudi families to mosques on the Indian Ocean island.
“Nobody will be able to just make donations now,” said Muslim cabinet minister Kabir Hashim, who has urged Muslim communities to look at how radical ideas could have spread. He said the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs would oversee donations.
The outcry in Sri Lanka is the latest sign that Wahhabism, which critics deem a root cause of the jihadist threat, is under pressure internationally.Jihadist organizations, including Islamic State - which claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings - follow an extreme interpretation of Islam’s Salafi branch, of which Wahhabism was the original strain.Saudi Arabia rejects the idea that Wahhabism is problematic and defends its record by pointing to the detention of thousands of suspected militants. Riyadh in June sent back five Sri Lankans allegedly linked to the Easter attacks.Saudi diplomats in Colombo have expressed “displeasure” over being targeted during a recent meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena, a Sri Lankan official told Reuters.Sirisena’s office, as well as Saudi Arabia’s Colombo embassy and the kingdom’s communications office in Riyadh, did not respond to requests for comment on the backlash against Saudi influence.
That backlash has focused on one man in particular - Muhammad Hizbullah, a businessman and politician who was the governor of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province until he resigned in June following protests by hardline Buddhist monks. The monks, who are influential on the island where 70 percent of the population are Buddhists, and some members of parliament say Hizbullah’s links to Riyadh contributed to the spread of militancy in his native Kattankudy, a Muslim-majority town.Hizbullah’s family helped build Saudi-financed mosques and a Saudi-funded higher education institute, Batticaloa Campus, which has not opened yet, in the Eastern Province.The mosque and school projects were led by the Hira Foundation, a non-profit owned by Hizbullah and his son Hiras.Its financial statements show income of some $31,000 between 2014 and 2018, though Hizbullah told parliament Hira had received $2 million from foreign donors. He did not respond to a request from Reuters for further financial details.In an interview with Reuters at his home in the capital, Colombo, Hizbullah, 56, said most funds come from the Juffalis, a leading Saudi merchant family. Reuters also found two wires from other Saudis but was not able to trace them. Hizbullah said they were pooled contributions from smaller donors.The Sheikh Ali Abdullah Al Juffali Foundation Charity wired some $24.5 million to Batticaloa Campus between 2016 and 2017, bank statements and loan agreements seen by Reuters show.
Hizbullah warned the experience of the Juffalis, who he said have received hate mail, was spooking Saudi investors. He did not identify any investors.
Ongoing investigations have not shown that any Saudi money flowed to the plotters. And critics attribute moves against Saudi influence to burgeoning Islamophobia, including mob attacks on Muslim properties in May.“Not a single Saudi institution, charity or individual gave even one rupee to terrorists,” Hizbullah said.The charity did not respond to calls or messages seeking comment, and Reuters was unable to find alternative contact details for the Juffalis. The charity’s website lists the founders as Ali al-Juffali, a businessman and former member of the kingdom’s consultative assembly who died in 2015, and his four sons. The charity says its objectives include supporting orphans and activities that promote religious tolerance.The Juffalis, who promised a total of $100 million to Batticaloa Campus, have halted loans over the school’s uncertain future, Hizbullah said. Construction of the sprawling campus, designed in Islamic architectural style, has been paused, he added.
Hira also connects mosques with donors.
The modest Siharam Mosque, for example, was rebuilt in 2015 thanks to some $56,000 from the Juffalis, according to a mosque plaque and its ex-president M.Y. Adam, who said Hira received a 10% commission. Hizbullah did not respond to questions about mosque funding.
In the Reuters interview, Hizbullah also denied allegations made by some monks that he had links to the attacks, and no evidence has surfaced to support that claim.His critics, however, point to a 2015 photograph that shows Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Zahran, who authorities say led the April suicide bombings and blew himself up at a Colombo hotel, grinning under his beard as he shakes Hizbullah’s hand. Hizbullah said he was seeking support from Zahran, also a Kattankudy native, for a parliamentary election. Back then, Hizbullah stressed, Zahran was just a charismatic preacher who could deliver some 2,000 votes in the devout town of roughly 50,000.His supporters - and even some opponents - say Hizbullah is a scapegoat. Ameer Ali Shihabdeen, an Eastern Province member of parliament from a rival party, said Hizbullah was being targeted despite a lack of evidence linking him to the attacks.Wahhabism spread to Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province three decades ago, when the area was convulsed by conflict between mostly Hindu Tamil separatists and the Buddhist-dominated government, according to local religious leaders and politicians.Muslim scholars received scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia, while impoverished farmers escaped clashes by becoming drivers or maids in the Middle East - often returning home with stricter Islamic practices, the sources said.
Saudi-funded mosques mushroomed. Women ditched their saris for all-enveloping black abayas. Some Sri Lankan Sufis, who follow a mystical form of Islam that Wahhabis consider heretical, said they began to be persecuted.Hizbullah’s political career, which included stints in parliament, blossomed during this time. In Kattankudy, his name adorns schools, a public hall and roads.Batticaloa Campus, the college funded by the Juffalis, initially planned to teach sharia, which some critics say limits women’s rights. Hizbullah said sharia only meant the academic subject of Islamic Studies, and that the discipline had been dropped from curriculum plans.Students would pay half standard tuition fees, which Hizbullah said was partly why this long-neglected area welcomes Arab donors’ deep pockets.A parliamentary committee last month called for authorities to take over Batticaloa Campus and compensate investors, citing incomplete documentation, possible violations of foreign exchange rules, and national security concerns.No decision has been announced yet, but a presidential spokesman told Reuters that Sirisena, a Hizbullah ally who is on the back foot ahead of presidential elections this year, also favors a takeover.
WAHHABI SCHOLAR BEHIND BARS
Some Kattankudy Sufis link the advent of Wahhabism to the 1990 opening of the Saudi-financed Center for Islamic Guidance, which boasts a mosque, school, and library. Reuters was unable to trace Saudi donors, who had names common in the Middle East, thanked on a plaque at the center.The center “brainwashed” youth and distributed flyers denouncing Sufism, according to H. M. Ameer, a community spokesman who said his house was destroyed during anti-Sufi unrest in 2004. Persecution intensified with the rise of Zahran, the suspected Easter bombings ringleader, whose followers attacked Sufis with swords in 2017, Ameer added.Representatives of the center did not respond to requests for comment about the Sufis’ allegations. They previously told Reuters the center practiced “moderate Islam”.
The center’s Riyadh-educated founder, Mohamed Aliyar, was arrested in May for allegedly funding Zahran.
The charge sheet, reviewed by Reuters, details his bank accounts but does not provide evidence of wrongdoing. A police spokesman did not respond to requests for details.
Aliyar’s lawyer Abdul Uwais said he was a victim of paranoia over Wahhabism.
Two sources from Kattankudy’s Muslim leadership said Zahran voraciously read Wahhabi texts from Aliyar’s center, but that the men were not known to be close.
جنگ گروپ سے وابستہ کچھ صحافیوں نے اچانک اپنے سوشل میڈیا اکاؤنٹس غیر فعال کیوں کر دیے؟
آئے روز سوشل میڈیا پر صحافیوں کے خلاف ٹرینڈز کیوں بنتے ہیں؟ خصوصا تنقید کرنے والے صحافیوں کے خلاف باضابطہ مہمیں چلائی جاتی ہیں۔
یہ مہمیں کون چلاتا ہے؟ اور کیا یہ مہمیں صحافیوں پر نفسیاتی دباؤ ڈالنے کے لیے کی جاتی ہیں؟
گذشتہ روز جنگ گروپ کے کچھ صحافیوں نے اپنے ٹوئٹر اکاؤنٹ غیر فعال کیوں کیے؟ ان سوالات کے جواب جاننے کے لیے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو نے مختلف صحافیوں سے رابطہ کیا۔
ہم اس سے نہیں گھبراتے: حامد میر
حامد میر نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے کہا ’میرے لیے یہ کوئی نئی چیز نہیں۔ میں گذشتہ کئی سالوں سے اس کا مقابلہ کر رہا ہوں۔ کسی نے اگر گرفتار کرنا ہے تو کر لے، اثاثے بھی چیک کرنے ہیں تو کر لیں، ہم اس سے نہیں گھبراتے۔‘
انہوں نے کہا اس میں قابل تشویش بات یہ ہے کہ خواتین صحافیوں کو دھمکایا جا رہا ہے۔ ’ہماری کمیونٹی کی خواتین ہماری بہن بیٹیاں ہیں اگر آپ کسی کے گھر میں گُھس جائیں گے تو ہم خاموش کیسے رہیں گے؟‘
حامد میر نے کہا ابھی تک سول حکومت کی جانب سے کسی نے رابطہ نہیں کیا اور نہ کوئی وضاحت دی گئی۔
صحافیوں کے اکاؤنٹ غیر فعال ہونے پر حامد میر نے کہا کہ جنگ گروپ کے جن صحافیوں نے اپنا ذاتی اکاؤنٹ ادارے کے کہنے پر غیر فعال کیے اور اب اس پر بات بھی نہیں کر رہے تو پھر اُن کا احتجاج کرنے کا کوئی حق نہیں۔
انہوں نے کہا انسان کو نوکری سے زیادہ عزت پیاری ہونی چاہیے، جو اپنے حق کے لیے نہیں بول سکتے وہ دوسرے کے حق کے لیے کیا بات کریں گے۔
صرف حکومت پر تنقید کرنے والے صحافی نشانے پر: عاصمہ شیرازی
معروف صحافی عاصمہ شیرازی نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے کہا حکومت اور کچھ اداروں کی جانب سے کہا جا رہا ہے کہ اُن کی مرضی کا لکھا اور بولا جائے لیکن ایسا نہیں ہو سکتا کیونکہ زندہ معاشرے میں لوگ بات کرتے ہیں۔
’جو گرفتاری کی دھمکیاں دے رہے ہیں اُن سے یہ کہنا ہے کہ آئیں اور گرفتاریاں شروع کریں۔‘
انہوں نے کہا جو حکومت کے حق میں بول رہے ہیں اُنھیں کچھ نہیں کہا جا رہا لیکن جو حکومت پر تنقید کر رہے ہیں وہ سوشل میڈیا میں نشانے پر ہیں۔ ’میڈیا کے خلاف میڈیا ٹرائل بند ہونا چاہیے۔ تحقیقات ضرور کریں لیکن ایسا نہ کریں کہ جب کچھ نہ ملے تو گاڑی سے ہیروئن نکال لیں۔‘
احتساب کریں لیکن غداری کا سرٹفیکیٹ دینا درست نہیں: غریدہ فاروقی
سینیئر اینکر غریدہ فاروقی نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو سے بات کرتے ہوئے کہا پہلے صحافیوں پر جب پابندیاں لگائی جاتی تھی تو طریقہ کار مختلف ہوتا تھا۔ اُنھیں مار پیٹ یا تشدد کا نشانہ بنایا جاتا تھا، اُن کے خاندان کو ہراساں کیا جاتا تھا، اُن کو مارا یا اغوا کیا جاتا تھا، لیکن آج کل سوشل میڈیا کے دور میں صحافیوں کے لیے یہ مشکلات کا نیا اضافہ ہے۔
’کبھی سوشل میڈیا پر اُن کے خلاف مہمیں چلوائی جاتی ہیں اور اب میڈیا مالکان کو اپروچ کر کے صحافیوں پر دباؤ ڈلوایا جا رہا ہے۔ جیسے اعزاز سید، عمر چیمہ کے ٹویٹر اکاؤنٹ بند کروائے گئے۔‘
غریدہ فاروقی نے کہا صحافی مقدس گائے نہیں ہیں، سب کا احتساب کریں، اثاثے چیک کریں لیکن احتساب کی آڑ میں کسی کو نشانہ بنانے کا اصول نہیں ہونا چاہیے۔
حکومت میں تنقید برداشت کرنے کا بھی حوصلہ نہیں: ارشد وحید چوہدری
صحافی ارشد وحید چوہدری نے کہا کہ اس سے قبل ملکی سلامتی کے مفاد میں خبر روکی جاتی تھی لیکن موجودہ حکومت میں تنقید برداشت کرنے کا بھی حوصلہ نہیں۔
انہوں نے کہا جو بھی صحافی حکومتی اقدامات/کارکردگی پر تنقید کرتا ہے اُس کو سوشل میڈیا پر نشانہ بنایا جاتا ہے۔ ’میرے خلاف بھی مہم چلائی گئی تھی جب میں نے بلاول بھٹو زرداری سے سوال کیا تھا۔اکثر اوقات جنگ اخبار میں کالم بھی چھپنے سے روک دیا جاتا ہے اور وجہ یہ بتائی جاتی ہے کہ ادارہ اس کالم کو چھاپنے کا متحمل نہیں ہو سکتا۔’
جیو نیوز کے اعزاز سید سے جب پوچھا گیا کہ انہوں نے اپنا ٹوئٹر اکاؤنٹ غیر فعال کیوں کیا تو انہوں نے کہا ’میں اس معاملے پر خاموش ہی رہوں گا۔ ناگزیر وجوہات کی بنا پر کمنٹ نہیں کر سکتا۔‘
انڈپینڈنٹ اردو نے جنگ گروپ کے عمر چیمہ سے رابطہ کیا لیکن انہوں نے فون نہیں اُٹھایا اسی طرح انڈپینڈنٹ اردو نے وزیر اعظم کی معاون خصوصی برائے اطلاعات ونشریات ڈاکٹر فردوس عاشق اعوان سے اُن کا موقف جاننے کے لیے رابطہ کیا لیکن بات نہیں ہو سکی۔
By Daud Khattak,Carl Schreck
The wedding picture shows Rimsha in a white bridal gown and tiara posing with her new Chinese husband in front of a curved staircase, their thumbs and forefingers joined in the shape of a heart. The caption reads, "Endless love."
The marriage of the 27-year-old Pakistani Christian and her Chinese suitor here in Lahore last fall was seen by relatives both as a chance for Rimsha to find marital bliss and to boost her family's financial fortunes.
Her mother, Parveen, said the marriage agency that arranged the union claimed the bridegroom operated a factory, and that Rimsha's brother could go to China as well to get a "good job" and send money home.
"We thought that our daughter will be happy, and they promised a happy life for the family," Parveen told RFE/RL in a recent interview in her cramped, one-story home in a Christian neighborhood where children play cricket in the narrow streets.
"We were also overcome by greed," Parveen added.
The family's dream of lifting themselves from the hardscrabble existence typical of Pakistan's marginalized Christian minority has now morphed into a nightmare. Rimsha, who is still in China, claims her Chinese husband is using and physically abusing her.
"He is asking me to have sex with all his friends visiting the place to earn money. He is beating me when I refuse. Please help me," Rimsha said in a tearful video sent to her family via a messaging app in early June.
Rimsha, whose full name is being withheld by RFE/RL, is among the scores of Pakistani women -- primarily Christians from poor families in the eastern Punjab Province -- allegedly lured into marrying Chinese men under false pretenses and forced into prostitution.
Pakistani authorities in May arrested dozens of Pakistani and Chinese nationals on suspicion of arranging such marriages in order to force the targeted women into the sex trade, with some alleged victims claiming they were threatened with having their organs removed.
China, a key security and economic partner for Islamabad that has poured billions of dollars into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has publicly denied or downplayed the reports of the abuses. "These are lies that Pakistani girls are being trafficked to China for forced prostitution or the sale of organs," the Chinese envoy in Islamabad tweeted in May.
AP quoted two unidentified Pakistani officials as saying last month that senior officials in Islamabad had ordered the authorities to remain tight-lipped about the trafficking issue over fears of damaging relations with Beijing.The tensions come against the broader backdrop of a rising demand for foreign brides in China, where the government's decades-long "one-child policy" along with a cultural preference for boys has resulted in a heavy gender imbalance.Saleem Iqbal, a Pakistani Christian activist who has spearheaded efforts to bring alleged victims home from China, tells RFE/RL the Chinese and Pakistani governments had not done enough to find and return the allegedly trafficked brides since the spate of arrests in May."Investigations are under way, and there will be more arrests," says Iqbal, adding that around 50 girls and young women have been returned to Pakistan from China. "But the Pakistani government and human rights organizations should raise their voices and bring the girls back."
In a second video obtained by RFE/RL, another Pakistani Christian woman currently in China claims her Chinese husband has abused her and tried to force her to have sex with other men. In the video, Maryam tells Iqbal that her husband has beaten her with a rod and choked her. She points to a scar on her neck as evidence of the abuse.
"When I was in Pakistan, he behaved well. But after arriving here he started beating me. Look, here I have a scar. He is inviting men here and asks me to have sex with them. I keep crying and refuse, and then he beats me," Maryam, 17, tells Iqbal in the June 3 video chat. Maryam, who says she moved to China in early 2019, claims that when she asks to return to Pakistan her husband threatens to have her kidneys removed and kill her.
Maryam is from Kasur, 50 kilometers south of Lahore. Her father, Ishaq, is a day laborer who paints houses and lives in a dusty Christian neighborhood in the city. Ishaq says that his older sister encouraged her marriage to a Chinese man due to the material benefits."In our community, we have to arrange a dowry, but the Chinese do not ask for a dowry. Your daughter will live a better life and she will be sending you money from China every month. But nothing as such happened," Ishaq says. He says he received money for the marriage but declines to say how much.He says the wedding was held at a hotel in Lahore, but that the family has no documents confirming the marriage. Ishaq says both he and his daughter are illiterate and that he does not know the name or age of his son-in-law, whom he met for the first time on the wedding day, nor does he know where in China his daughter is living.
When he speaks to Maryam on the phone she cries and "seems terrified," Ishaq says.
He adds they were also told that Maryam's husband was a Christian, although in reality he was not. Both Pakistani Christian and Muslim women have said their Chinese bridegrooms assured them they were wealthy and of the same faith, only to discover after arriving in China that they were neither.
Two young Pakistani Christians who married Chinese men but did not go to China told RFE/RL that the bridegrooms toted Chinese translations of the Bible around with them but appeared to know little about Christianity.
'All Expenses Will Be Paid'
The poverty-stricken existence that Pakistani Christians largely lead leaves young women in the community particularly vulnerable to predatory marriage scams, Iqbal says. "They know that they are voiceless people, they are poor, and it is easier to target them. No one will pay heed to their voice," he says..
Last winter, a banner festooned across a road in a Christian neighborhood of Lahore read: "Attention Christian People: matrimonial relations needed for deserving, poor, and noble families in China. All expenses will be paid by Chinese families. No education needed." RFE/RL recently called the phone number listed on the banner, but it was disconnected.
One of the suspected ringleaders of the alleged gang under investigation in Pakistan is a man named Anas Butt, the son of a retired police officer in the Punjab region. Several of the women who say they were duped into the marriages identified Butt, who has been charged but remains at large, as a central player in the alleged scam -- and that he regularly hurled abusive language at Christian girls.
In a recording of a phone call obtained by RFE/RL, a man said to be Butt is heard arguing with a woman over access to a mobile phone and telling her that "people won't even spit" on Christians. Repeated attempts by RFE/RL to reach Butt by phone were unsuccessful.
Azra, a Christian mother of nine who also lives in Kasur, says her 15-year-old daughter Sawera at first refused to marry the Chinese suitor who twice came to their home with associates, even after they told her he owned a jewelry business and three houses, and that he would help her family financially.
"When they visited for the third time, we agreed to the marriage. We arranged the marriage and then they would send cars to invite us to Lahore or Islamabad. But they did not give us anything that they promised," Azra said in a recent interview.
Like Ishaq, Azra said she did not know the name of her daughter's husband or where in China they live. The couple married in November and moved to China in January, she added. In telephone conversations, her daughter has told her that her husband is pressuring her to do sex work to compensate for the money that was spent for the marriage, and that they will let her go after that, Azra told RFE/RL.
Her daughter says she suffers beatings when she refuses. "We are getting disturbed when we listen to her."
The sex-trafficking and abuse allegations by Pakistani girls and women could not be independently corroborated by RFE/RL. China says it is cooperating with Pakistani authorities to combat crimes "under the banner of...cross-border marriage" but dismissing the sexual-exploitation accusations -- which Pakistani authorities themselves have lodged -- as "fabricated facts" and "rumors."
"According to investigations by the Ministry of Public Security of China, there is no forced prostitution or sale of human organs for those Pakistani women who stay in China after marriage with Chinese," the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad said in May.
"We will never allow a few criminals to undermine China-Pakistan friendship and hurt the friendly feelings between two peoples," the embassy added.
A week before Pakistani authorities arrested numerous suspects in the sex-trafficking case related to the marriage brokers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Islamabad should be "alarmed by recent reports of trafficking of women and girls to China."
"These allegations are disturbingly similar to the pattern of trafficking of 'brides' to China from at least five other Asian countries," HRW said.
RFE/RL spoke to five other young Pakistani Christian brides who managed either to return home from China or avoid moving there after learning something was amiss with their marriages. Among these, only Natasha Masih, a 23-year-old from Faisalabad, alleged that she was beaten and coerced into the sex trade.
Natasha's parents arranged the marriage in the hopes of getting a new home and financial support for their family of eight. She said that after arriving in China, her husband moved her to a hotel in the city of Urumqi and forced her to work as a prostitute there.
"He was torturing and beating me after shifting me into the hotel room. He was calling other men and forcing me to do bad things," she told RFE/RL following her recent testimony at a court hearing in Faisalabad in a criminal case related to the marriage of a Pakistani woman to a Chinese man.Masih said she escaped thanks to a Pakistani student in China related to a member of her parents' church congregation back home. The congregation members contacted the student and had him spirit Natasha away after contacting her husband and posing as a client, she said.Naina, an 18-year-old from Lahore, told RFE/RL that her marriage was arranged by her parents in exchange for money without her knowledge. She said she lived in China for four months and that she was kept "as a servant" and made to work "all day." She said she "politely" persuaded her 35-year-old husband to let her visit Pakistan, and then never returned.
"My parents wanted me to go back, but I did not want to spoil my life," Naina said.
While Naina and the three other Pakistani brides interviewed by RFE/RL said they were not sexually exploited in China, several said others in similar situations like them had told them via messaging apps that they were being abused and forced into prostitution.
'I Want My Daughter Back'
Rimsha, the 27-year-old who sent the tearful video message to her family in Lahore, twice called police after she was advised to do so by other Pakistani women in China that she communicates with, her mother, Parveen, told RFE/RL.
But Rimsha claimed her husband paid off the police so they would go away, Parveen and Rimsha's sister, Jameela, said. "After that, the husband snatched her mobile phone," Jameela said, adding that her sister was only allowed to use the phone to take incoming calls from her family.
Parveen said she had suffered health problems due to her daughter's situation and her concerns about how -- or whether – Rimsha might return. She appeared regretful about the financial considerations that led to her daughter's marriage.
"We became greedy, and we had no idea that there would be such problems later on," Parveen said.
"Now I want my daughter back."
Saudi Arabia, Russia and 35 other states have written to the United Nations supporting China’s policies in its western region of Xinjiang, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters on Friday, in contrast to strong Western criticism.
China has been accused of detaining a million Muslims and persecuting ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, and 22 ambassadors signed a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week criticizing its policies. But the letter supporting China commended what it called China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.
“Faced with grave challenge of terrorism & extremism, #China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in #Xinjiang"
37 nations including #SaudiArabia #Syria #Pakistan #Oman #Kuwait #Qatar#UAE #Bahrain #Russia #Myanmar
China has been accused of detaining a million Muslims and persecuting ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, and 22 ambassadors signed a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week criticizing its policies. But the letter supporting China commended what it called China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.
“Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers,” the letter said.
The letter said security had returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there had been safeguarded. It added there had been no terrorist attack there for three years and people enjoyed a stronger sense of happiness, fulfillment and security. As well as Saudi Arabia and Russia, the letter was signed by ambassadors from many African countries, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar, the Philippines, Syria, Pakistan, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Beijing has denied any human rights violations in the region and Chinese Ambassador Xu Chen, speaking at the close of the Council’s three-week session on Friday, said China highly appreciated the support it had received from the signatories.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Bangladesh and China have inked billions worth of infrastructure deals. Investment from China promises advantages, but many remain concerned that reliance on Chinese money will make Dhaka beholden to Beijing.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's official visit to China last week seemingly succeeded in bolstering ties between the countries. During the trip, both sides inked a host of agreements, including two deals to provide loans to the Bangladeshi power sector, worth $1.7 billion (€1.52 billion).
The countries also expressed interest in accelerating the work related to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM EC) project, an initiative aimed at expanding the economic ties of the four countries that together are home to nearly 3 billion people.
Bangladesh and China turned their relationship into a strategic partnership in 2016, and, in recent years, Chinese investment in the South Asian country has risen rapidly.
As part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing and Dhaka signed deals worth $21.5 billion covering a raft of power and infrastructure projects. To date, pledged BRI-related investment in Bangladesh stands at around $38 billion, estimates Standard Chartered, a British bank.
China has pumped more money into Bangladesh than any other country over the past couple of years. Bangladesh saw a record inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2018, with the country attracting some $3.6 billion of FDI, 68% higher than in the preceding year, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). China alone accounts for almost a third of this investment, worth over $1 billion.
Bangladesh now increasingly relies on Chinese money to achieve its ambitious target of producing 24,000 megawatts of power by 2022, up from 17,000 megawatts now. The Padma Bridge, a major road-rail project across the Padma river, is being built by the China Major Bridge Engineering Company. And China's Exim Bank is providing $3 billion for the construction of the rail link accompanying the bridge.
"Chinese investment is a welcome addition for Bangladesh, because it creates a new source of funding," Ahsan S Mansur, executive director of Dhaka-based Policy Research Institute, told DW. "Traditional sources of funding are not adequate for emerging economies like Bangladesh."
Chinese money brings with it other advantages, Mansur said. "It creates a bit of competitive environment. It prompts countries like Japan and India to also come forward and invest."
Bangladesh has announced an ambitious plan to set up 100 special economic zones by 2030. Many Chinese companies appear interested in investing in these zones. Zhejiang Jindun Pressure Vessel Co Ltd., for instance, has offered to invest $5 billion in one such site near Chittagong.
A debt trap?
In South Asia, Bangladesh is the second-biggest receiver of Chinese investment, behind Pakistan. But not everyone seems optimistic about the development, with many warning that the growing reliance on Chinese money will make Dhaka beholden to Beijing.
Critics point to Sri Lanka's experience, where Colombo had to cede control of its southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease after it failed to repay its debts.
Mansur, however, said it would be more beneficial for Bangladesh to draw direct investment from China rather than debt financing.
"Chinese investment comes in both equity and debt. The infrastructure projects are mostly carried out through debt financing," Mansur said. "So I would rather be interested in equity, not debt."
It's too early to say that Bangladesh is falling into a debt trap, some experts argue. Bangladesh's total external debt at the end of 2018 stood at around $33.1 billion, and the share owed to China doesn't seem big, they say.
"The loans granted to Bangladesh by China so far account for just 6% of the total debt," Zahid Hussain, lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office, told DW. "There is not enough information as to the grounds on which the loans have been granted," Hussain said.
However, the analyst didn't want to call the Chinese investment a "debt trap."
"It presents both risks and opportunities. The information we have so far doesn't point us to a debt trap scenario."
Skeptics, however, remain worried about China's growing economic influence over Bangladesh.
Why is India concerned?
But trade and investment may not always have the last word when it comes to international relations. In 2016, Dhaka quietly killed a deep sea port project that China proposed to build at Sonadia, in southeastern Bangladesh. New Delhi expressed concern about the project, which if completed would have brought the Chinese presence closer to India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Nevertheless, China's increasing economic clout in South Asia presents a huge challenge for New Delhi, not for economic reasons, but for political and security reasons, said Siegfried O. Wolf, director of research at the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF), a Brussels-based think tank.
"China has a port facility [Hambantota] in Sri Lanka, they have Gwadar [in Pakistan], they are building a port facility in Myanmar [Kyaukpyu] – this gives India the feeling of being surrounded by China. This is the military dimension of Indian concern," Wolf told DW.
The expert also warned that by pumping investment, China gains political influence over the governments. "So there is a threat for India that China might influence the government of Bangladesh." This influence may also have an economic dimension, Wolf said. "We have seen China driving out other countries from the market. For instance, it has become very difficult for French and German companies to get contracts in African countries."