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#Pakistan - #Christian persecution watchdog urges #UNHRC to protect #Pakistani Christians

 By Madeeha Bakhsh

The United Nations Human Rights Council has been urged to protect Pakistan’s Christian community. In this regard, a legal submission has been made to the UN body seeking action in order to guard Christians in Pakistan from religion based persecution.
This submission was made by the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ). The Washington-based watchdog maintained in its submission that: “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan continues to violate the human rights of its religious minorities. Instances of mob violence; police torture; false accusations of blasphemy; rape, murder, and other forms of violence occur on a regular basis. Authorities in Pakistan have shown a continuous inability or unwillingness to protect its minorities from human rights abuses. These aren’t isolated incidents. Christians are being specifically targeted.”
The watchdog further maintained that “Pakistani Christians are being terrorized, tortured, murdered – even sentenced to death – simply because of their faith. The Pakistani government seems unable or unwilling to protect its Christian citizens. We are asking the world’s leaders to take urgent action.”
The ACLJ said that the churches are being targeted and damaged frequently, what is more Christian neighborhoods have also been attacked repeatedly. It claimed that the Pakistani government has turned a blind eye to the plight of the Christians so much so that, “Christians can’t even count on the local authorities to protect them.”
“We are aggressively fighting for persecuted Christians through our office on the ground in Pakistan. We also continue to advocate for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who we’ve told you has been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws for offering a Muslim coworker a glass of water. Pakistan has allowed these easily misinterpreted laws to cause innocent people – particularly Christians like Asia Bibi, and other religious minorities – to suffer and even die,” the ACLJ submission stated.
The American Centre for Law and Justice briefed the UNHRC that the blasphemy laws are being widely misused. “As a result, the blasphemy laws are easy to misuse and charges often result because of personal vendettas between the parties. Since Pakistan enacted these laws in the 1980s, over one thousand cases have been registered and over forty people are on death row or serving life sentences. Over fifty people have been killed over blasphemy allegations and hundreds are serving or have served prison terms ranging from three to ten years,” ACLJ said.
The ACLJ urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to exert pressure on the Government of Pakistan to comply with the international agreements it endorsed in order to protect the religious minorities nestled in the country.
“We must act now to protect our persecuted and dying Christian brothers and sisters. We will continue aggressively to advocate at the U.N. and through our office on the ground in Pakistan, but we need you. Be the voice of Pakistan’s frightened and dying Christians,” the ACLJ urged.


#Pakistan - Rift becomes apparent in #PTI

The rift within Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which is now acting like a government-in-waiting, became apparent on Tuesday when its two senior leaders came face to face in a party meeting.
It all started when there was an altercation took place between PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi and former secretary general of the party Jahangir Khan Tareen in the party’s core group meeting.
Sources in PTI confirmed that Qureshi brought under discussion the matter of participation of disqualified politicians in the party’s affairs and Tareen took the remarks as personal as he has been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court
In the PTI’s core committee meeting that was held in the chair of Imran Khan, Qureshi objected to the participation of PTI leader from district Sahiwal of Punjab Rai Hasan Nawaz in the party meetings on the grounds that he has been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court.
Qureshi also objected to Rai Hasan’s participation in the parliamentary board meeting, as the regional head of the party, which has to start the process of award of party tickets soon for the next general elections.
On this, Tareen directly addressing Qureshi said that perhaps he was attributing these remarks to him. Tareen also said that he would not meddle into the affairs of the party and sit at home if the party decides so. After this, both started alleging each other on different party matters till the party chairman intervened.
Tareen alleged that Qureshi for his poor performance in the party and said that he had been assigned the task of revival of the party in Sindh to which he had failed miserably during the last two years. Tareen claimed that he had invested and worked a lot on south Punjab and number of politicians and lawmakers of the area had joined PTI because of his efforts. He taunted Qureshi for remaining isolated with the local lawmakers and small political groups.
In the argument, former secretary general PTI claimed that he had invested a lot of money on the party and he convinced the leadership of South Punjab Province Front to have a merger into PTI and objected to the behaviour of Qureshi. He added that if Qureshi followed the suit and with this behaviour, neither his dream of becoming chief minister Punjab would come true nor Imran Khan would become the prime minister as well as his party would come into power. Tareen also said that he would sit at home after Imran Khan became prime minister.
The sources within PTI viewed that Qureshi was not happy with Tareen because he was instrumental behind the newcomers within PTI. Qureshi thought that perhaps Tareen had not brought some tainted politicians within the party and these were damaging the image of PTI. At the end, Imran Khan assured the meeting that neither Rai Hasan Nawaz would remain on any party position nor would have a say in the parliamentary board.
On December 15 last year, a Supreme Court verdict had declared Jahangir Tareen to be dishonest under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and Section 99 of Representation of People Act (ROPA) for the non-declaration of his property as well as assets in his nomination papers and disqualified him for life.
In 2016, the SC had also disqualified Rai Hasan Nawaz for concealing his financial assets and details of unpaid loans to commercial banks in his nomination papers. Hassan had approached the apex court against the election tribunal’s verdict
PTI rebuttal
Late in the Tuesday evening, PTI issued a rebuttal stating reports of differences between the two senior party leaders were baseless and based on speculations. The statement said that party leadership was united and the publication of such reports without proper verification was a proof of irresponsible journalism. The statement said that all decisions in the meeting were taken with consultations and with consensus like in the past.
PTI Secretary Information Fawad Chaudhry while talking to a private TV admitted that there was a discussion in the party over the participation of Rai Hasan in the parliamentary board following his disqualification by the SC. He said that the discussion was held in the light of the other day’s decision of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that disqualified politicians could not hold party positions. However, he denied that there was an argument between the two leaders.
PTI statement after the meeting
PTI in a statement after the meeting said that the party had suggested most suitable names for the slot of caretaker premier and these names should be considered by both PML-N and PPP.
It said that PTI termed its 100-days plan integral for the future of the country and the top brass has decided to put forth the details of the plan before the masses in the wake of the criticism of the opponent parties on the plan. Sharing the details of the meeting, the party spokesperson stated that PTI leaders discussed in detail the 100-day plan of the party and has decided to enlighten masses with the details of the plan. “Central leaders, including Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Jahangir Tareen, Asad Umer and Dr Shireen Mazari have been tasked to disseminate the details of the plan across the length and width of the country,” said the spokesperson.
Moreover, the spokesperson said that in the meeting Shah Mehmood Qureshi briefed the leadership regarding the caretaker setup. He stated that PTI’s suggested names, including Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Abdul Razzaq Daud are the best choices for the PM slot in the caretaker government and urged the ruling party to consider these names.
The spokesperson stated that the meeting also deliberated over the strategy for upcoming general elections and issuance of tickets and selection of candidature. It has been decided, he said, to convene a meeting of the parliamentary board immediately.
“The performance of PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been minutely analysed and chairman PTI specifically lauded CM KP Pervaiz Khattak and his cabinet for their remarkable performance even in worst circumstances,” the spokesperson said.
The meeting also looked into the issue of a huge number of politicians and lawmakers joining the party.
PTI is also considering to issue white paper on the “worst” governance of the PML-N’s Punjab government, said the spokesperson.

#Pakistan - #PTI leader Fauzia Kasuri quits party

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fauzia Kasuri on Wednesday announced that she is parting ways with the party as Kasuri no longer believes in PTI as a “representative of aspirations of the underserved citizens.”
In an official statement issued via Twitter, Kasuri announced that she is resigning from party membership over certain reservations. Kasuri said that she no longer believes that PTI is a true representative of aspirations of underserved citizens, who desire a change.
The PTI leader also complained that PTI Chairman Imran Khan has joined hands with electables who the party had earlier fought against since its inception.
Kasuri said that since she can “no longer defend party’s actions”, she would like to resign from party membership and to that end, requested the party chief to accept her resignation.

Re-Impositions Of Sanctions On Iran: Implications For Pakistan – OpEd

The recent decision of the U.S. president to pull its country out of the nuclear deal signed by six super powers of the world with Iran has serious implications for the world in general and Pakistan in particular. Contrary to policy recommendations, President Donald Trump’s decision to pull-out from the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has already hiked crude oil prices to three-year highs. Since Pakistan and Iran enjoy common border, the geopolitical tension in its backyard must be handled with extreme care as policy decisions of the country are influenced by its relationship with the United States and Saudi Arabia.
From a domestic perspective, if one assesses Pakistan-Iran trade relationship with Iran the likely implications are negligible. Some analysts say that the decision may become a major roadblock in the execution of any energy supply projects (IP gas pipeline, possible expansion of electricity imports). As regards implications on the equity market the pressures imposed through higher global crude oil prices will weigh on an already precarious current account situation and will also not bode well for investors’ sentiments.
According to some economic analysts, having myopic view the hike in crude oil price bodes well for E&P sector and revenue collection. They also believe that influx of foreign exchange from Saudi Arabia will increase. However, they tend to forget that country is already suffering from serious balance of payment crisis.
There are speculations that U.S. sanctions against Iran would lead to a disruption in supply which would further tighten global supplies. Iran’s oil exports were 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in April 2018. However, gains have been capped by a stronger U.S. Dollar, which affects demand, and rising U.S. production. The uncertainties over Iran are helping to underpin prices with buyers coming in on weakness, but refraining from buying enough to drive the market through resistance and into new multiyear highs. This is holding the markets in a range and giving the appearance of a sideways trade.
The move has been initiated by the US president and many ‘me too’ are trying to please him. The crusade is led by Israeli prime minister, who is licking wounds caused to Israel in Lebanon by Hezbollah. The US is also adamant at taking revenge of its defeat in Syria, where it also faced Hezbollah. The west is never tired of accusing Hezbollah being supported by Iran but it is in no way part of Islamic Revolutionary Guards of Iran.
The US commentators have very cunningly convinced OPEC led by Saudi Arabia to curtail crude oil output which has resulted in 1) substantial increase in crude oil price and 2) significant hike in the output by the US and Russia. At present, Saudi Arabia has slipped to third position in terms of daily oil output. The US has also emerged as one of the major exporter of crude oil. Therefore, Iran with a daily export of 2.6 million barrel has become ‘of no consequence’. Even if export of oil from Iran is stopped completely, it would be compensated by other producers very quickly.
As a daily ritual, I have to write a few lines on commodities market and factors driving their prices. The most bizarre part is writing about the factors driving crude oil prices. The usual jargon used are increase/decrease in rig count in the US, movement in US stock piles, turmoil in Venezuela and MENA (countries including Iraq, Libya, and Nigeria). Little reference is made to investment by hedge funds.
Crude prices fell after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a surprise build of 6.2 million barrels in the week-ending April 27. Traders shrugged off the news because the surprise rise in inventories was largely concentrated on the West Coast where supply jumped nearly 5 million barrels.
If one peeps into history, it becomes evident that the price of crude oil is driven by any factor, but certainly not by demand and supply alone. The moral of the story is that developed economies, through hedge funds make millions of dollars by maneuvering crude oil prices. To achieve their objective they often breach agreements. Super powers are notorious for breaching the agreements for achieving their motives.
Therefore, re-imposition of sanctions on Iran will not be a surprise but an example of yet another blatant violation. However, they must not forget that even stopping oil export from Iran completely will neither make an immediate difference for Iran nor sky rocket oil prices.
Comments from Iran’s Foreign Minister triggered a volatile short-covering rally on Thursday after he said U.S. demands to change its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers were unacceptable.
Trump and traders are waiting for the Europeans to hand Trump a plan to save the Iran nuclear deal by the end of next week. However, the situation remains uncertain enough that buyers are willing to come in on dips. If the Europeans can come up with a plan that satisfies Trump then prices are likely to decline sharply on speculative profit-taking and shorting. If Trump moves forward with sanctions then prices could rise, but gains are likely to be limited by rising U.S. production.
The moral of the story is that developed economies, through hedge funds make millions of dollars by maneuvering crude oil prices. To achieve their objective they often breach agreements. Super powers are notorious for breaching the agreements for achieving their ulterior motives. Therefore, re-imposition of sanction on Iran will not be a surprise but an example of yet another blatant violation. However, they must not forget that even stopping oil export from Iran completely will neither make an immediate difference for Iran nor sky rocket oil prices.

Belt And Road Initiative Enhances Pakistan’s Maritime Security, Decreases Likelihoods Of War Between India And Pakistan – OpEd

By Asia Maqsood
The One Belt and One Road initiative would lessen the probabilities of nuclear war between India and Pakistan providing Pakistan a competence to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan plays a significant role in China’s Maritime Silk Route as part of China’s Belt and Road (B & R) initiative. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a vital development project within China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and serves as the crucial link between the maritime ‘road’ and land based ‘belt’ aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India perceives this China’s Maritime Silk route passing through South Asia a direct threat to its core strategic interest in Indian Ocean as it wants to maintain Indian primacy in the Indian Ocean (IO) and Indian Ocean Littoral States.
India’s great leaders have strong aspirations to be a blue water navy or the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean since its inception in 1947. India’s Anit Mukherjee determines Indian Ocean strategy in three categories. One is to establish closer ties with the US and its allies, second is to strengthen its links with Indian Ocean Littoral states and last is to building up its own military power ( including the induction of Nuclear capable Submarines into Indian Ocean).
Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is the coastal area (consists of islands and states) lying in contact with the IO. It has become a renewed focal point of global economy, having substantial avenues for economic activities of Asia, the US and Europe. Therefore, all stakeholders are obliged to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean in order to avoid any miscalculation or misperception among all stake holders. Moreover, China is expected to be the world’s largest oil importing country and India expected to be the largest coal importing country by 2020; therefore, there is an inevitable need for their cooperative efforts to ensure energy security.
On the other hand, the enlargement of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the IOR is primarily due to the large economic incentives. China has transported 173.9 million tons of oil from the Middle East to China, and 52.4 million tons from Africa to China in 2016. Besides, China has established its first overseas military base in Djibouti which is considered by India as part of China’s “String of Pearls” strategy and would engulf India.
If India is developing its military (three wings: army, navy, air force) to maximize its power, likewise it may avoid to feed its fears related to China’s port development assistance in the IOR as China is pursuing its own national economic and strategic interests. India perceives that these ports can disrupt the refueling of India’s tankers, warships because of the presence of People’s Liberation Army Navy in the IOR.
The contemporary world is globalized and interdependent where states have to cooperate with each other in each walk of life. Therefore, India’s rhetoric regarding China’s development projects may prove unjustified in future. Here question arises that why India is the one of the biggest trade partner of China if it feels that it would be engulfed by China?
By the same token, India has presuppositions that the development of Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province under China—Pakistan’s joint development project, “China—Pakistan Economic Corridor” will pave the way for the formation of Chinese naval base in Gwadar. Fuelling fears against China, India has launched nuclear capable Submarine in the Indian Ocean. This nuclearization of Indian Ocean has serious security implications for Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan needs a strategic partner currently (in form of “China”) in order to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean. China can monitor the naval activities of both the US and India on the Indian Ocean.
Some of the recent events such as India-China military standoff at Doklam from 16 June 2017 – 28 August 2017 and India-Pakistan’s blame game on the unprovoked firing on the Line of Control region in 2017 and in the beginning of 2018 (left hundreds of people dead and injured), are the destabilizing incidents in the South Asian region. In the backdrop of these insecurities, Pakistan has to maximize its defence.
Most recently, an embryonic formation of an alternative route against China’s B &R initiative by a quad of Australia, India, Japan and the US in order to contain China’s global influence may exacerbate some tensions at global level. India being part of this quad may pursue its strategic objective against China’s B & R initiative. India considers China’s Maritime Silk Route projects in South Asia as part of its larger strategy of challenging Indian primacy in the Indian Ocean.
India here has certain doubts about Chinese aims to deploy Gwadar in the medium to long term as a dual use port, allowing the PLA key access into the Indian Ocean as well as bolstering Pakistan’s ability to deter any Indian advantage in the naval realm. The Pakistani port of Gwadar, built, financed and operated by China is located at the union of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, providing China access to a key location in the Indian Ocean.
In between all these states, Pakistan being an important part of China’s Belt and Road initiative can maximize it maritime security fittingly. Pakistan navy is likely to buy eight more diesel-electric attack submarines from China in near future. These are scheduled for delivery in 2028 to maximize Pakistan’s maritime security as a defensive measure. It may a direct response to India’s August 2016 deployment of its first nuclear submarine, the Arihant. A second, even more advanced Indian nuclear submarine, the Arighat, began sea trials last November, and four more boats are scheduled to join the fleet by 2025. That will give India a “nuclear triad,” which means the country will have the ability to deliver a nuclear strike by land-based missiles, by warplanes, and by submarines. The submarine is the key component. It’s considered the most “survivable” in the event of a devastating first strike by an enemy, and thus able to deliver a retaliatory second strike.
Lastly, both China and Pakistan will be able to monitor India’s naval activities in the Indian Ocean so that India’s any attempt to get an advantage in the IO can be counterbalanced. If, supposedly, that advantage will go unnoticed, there would be more chance of the nuclearization.
When it comes to India and Pakistan, by contrast, the new generation of nuclear submarines may increase the risk of a devastating war between the two longstanding enemies.