Home > Uncategorized > Pakistan, US Aid, and Human Rights

Pakistan, US Aid, and Human Rights

The US has sent Vice-President Biden to Pakistan to assure them of our love and support. Biden delivered this message with a straight face, saying that: “ We are not the enemies of Islam and we embrace those who practice that great religion in all our country.” While he was praising Pakistan for being a key anti-terror ally, the Taliban killed 18 and wounded 15 others, most of the security officers.

To be fair, he “reprimanded” the Pakistanis about the killing of the Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot dead by his bodyguard over his outspoken opposition to strict blasphemy laws. Said Biden: “Societies that applaud such actions end up being consumed by those actions.” Which, when followed by promises to fast-track part of a 7.5-billion-dollar five-year aid package, is hardly a strong condemnation of terrorist practices by Pakistan.

Aid to Pakistan should be cut off until that country puts its house in order, and stops supplying the Taliban with American dollars. There are a couple of reasons we should take this stand, and they mostly hinge on human rights, and the failure of the Pakistanis to uphold those rights. One, at least, is logistic; we shouldn’t throw money down a sinkhole, especially when it is in such short supply around here.

First, the logistical. The International Herald-Tribune reports that mismanagement and misuse of cash are hampering relief efforts for flood victims with nearly $60 million in the prime minister’s fund still unspent. Foreign donors contributed half of a UN appeal target of $1.93 billion, but officials say efforts to rebuild 1.6 million homes are being compromised by infighting between federal and provincial authorities. That’s private donors, individuals like you or me, giving a billion dollars. They can’t spend what they have, and as we learned in the horn of Africa, when “provincial authorities” are involved, as likely as not the money is being siphoned off into private coffers. Let’s get a thorough accounting of past monies, and a vetted plan for future aid, before we send more.

On to the important stuff, like human rights. As I mentioned in previous columns, it’s difficult to consider Pakistan an “ally” in the “war on terror.” Remember this? “When the Americans started bombing the Taliban, the Frontier Corps started shooting at the Americans,” said one of Suran Dara’s villagers, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being persecuted or killed by the Pakistani government or the Taliban. “They were trying to help the Taliban. And then the American planes bombed the Pakistani post.” Our allies, shooting at us? Oh no, what should we do? Give them more money to buy more bullets! Brilliant!

Sarcasm aside, what about Aasia Bibi? She’s the women, a Christian, convicted by Pakistan of some vague offense under their blasphemy law. Her conviction is what led to the killing of Taseer. What to make of that? Let’s see what the Human Rights Watch, not a very conservative group, said.

“As the world celebrated Christmas, Pakistan’s beleaguered Christians cowered in fear. Baying for the blood of a Christian woman unjustly convicted under the country’s abusive and discriminatory blasphemy law, Islamist extremists held country-wide protests on Christmas Eve and have yet more planned for the New Year and beyond

Taseer’s killing provides the government and citizenry an unequivocal and unpleasant reminder that state appeasement of extremist groups does not work. The Punjab provincial administration run by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif needs to accept that its historical and ongoing tolerance of violence by extremist groups is simply untenable.”

State appeasement of extremist groups does not work? Ghosts of Neville Chamberlain! What of the Human Rights Watch claim that the problems are the results of “Islamist extremists?” Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this about “moderate Islam”: “These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” According to Erdogan, there’s no such thing as an Islamic extremist. And he’s not alone. There are plenty of other Islamic scholars who say the same thing.

What else? How about this: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik today directed the authorities to block websites and SMS “propagating an anti-Islam agenda” within 24 hours. Malik ordered the Interior Secretary to trace all websites that are “propagating against Islam”. Cases should be registered against persons who are involved in such acts and are residing in Pakistan, he said. Malik also asked the Secretary to constitute a committee comprising representatives of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and Federal Investigation Agency to tackle anti-Islam propaganda. Malik also told reporters at Pirpai village in northwest Pakistan that the government has no intention of repealing or amending the blasphemy law.

How’s that for protecting free speech? But wait, there’s more! The leader of an Islamic political party in Pakistan has warned the daughter of a murdered politician to ”remember her father’s fate” and to stop supporting his cause. Shadab Qadri, the leader of Sunni Tehreek, one of Pakistan’s larger political parties, said the politician’s daughter, Shehrbano Taseer, 21, must stop speaking out against blasphemy laws.

”We read the statement of the slain governor’s daughter in a newspaper. She should refrain from issuing such statements and must remember her father’s fate,” Shadab Qadri said. His organization has also offered legal support to Mumtaz Qadri and financial help to his family ”as he performed a great duty in the name of Islam”. Mumtaz Qadri is the assassin of the Punjab Governor.

Pakistan, far from being our ally in the “war on terror,” has shown itself over and over again to be one of the world’s most flagrant abusers of human rights. We should immediately cease all foreign aid to Pakistan until and unless they protect the rights of all Pakistanis, Christians included. These would include the right to freely practice their religion, the right of free speech, and the right to communicate freely with whomsoever they desire. No person in good conscience can sanction their actions, any more than we could those of South Africa. The time to disinvest is now.

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