Tag Archives: patronage

Venom spread into the whole of society: the arrest of a young Pakistani Christian girl on blasphemy charges

Pakistani activists alarmed by threats to minorities

The US has said that it is deeply disturbed by the arrest of a young Pakistani Christian girl on blasphemy charges. It also expressed satisfaction, however, about President Asif Ali Zardari’s action to probe the case.

On Monday, when Pakistani Muslims were busy celebrating the Islamic Eid festival, hundreds of Christian families living in the low-income Mehrabad neighborhood of the Pakistani capital Islamabad were forced to leave the homes where they had been living for more than two decades.

The Christians feared that they would be attacked by the majority Muslim community after Rimsha, a Christian girl aged between 10 and 13, allegedly burnt pages with the verses from the Koran inscribed on them. The incident took place last Thursday and Rimsha was later taken into custody by the Pakistani police.

The angry Muslims of the neighborhood, which is only a 20-minute drive from Western embassies in Islamabad, immediately demanded that she be punished for her “sin.”

According to some media reports, the girl was burning papers that she collected from a rubbish pile for cooking when some Muslims entered her house and accused her of burning the Islamic text. Pakistani officials have claimed the girl suffers from Down’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder causing major learning disabilities.

On Monday, the US State Department took serious note of the girl’s arrest. “This case is obviously deeply disturbing,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, adding that the US government was encouraged by President Zardari’s move to order the interior ministry to submit a report on the case.

“We think that the president’s statement is very welcome, and we urge the government of Pakistan to protect not just its religious minority citizens but also women and girls,” Nuland said.

Religious discrimination is widespread

Religious discrimination in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not a new occurrence but it has increased considerably in recent years. Pakistan’s liberal sections are alarmed by the growing influence of right-wing Islamists in their country.

Rights activists complain that the Islamists enjoy state patronage, while on the other hand liberal and progressive voices have to face the wrath of the country’s security agencies.

Rights organizations also point out to the legal discrimination against minorities in Pakistan, which, in their opinion, is one the major causes of maltreatment of Pakistani minority groups.

President Zardari’s PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) government has recently come under sharp criticism from the country’s rights organizations and the West for refusing to reform the anti-blasphemy laws despite the assassinations of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian cabinet minister, and Salman Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab province.

Controversial anti-blasphemy laws

The two politicians were brutally murdered by Islamists in 2011 because they had dared to speak out against the controversial laws, which were introduced by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Many rights activists say they have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes.

Farooq Sulehria, a London-based activist and journalist, told DW that they should be immediately repealed. “But I doubt that in the absence of a working-class struggle in Pakistan, any government will be forced to do it.”

Mohsin Sayeed, a journalist in Karachi, said the laws were “un-Islamic.”

“The anti-blasphemy laws should be abolished because they have nothing to do with Islam. We have been demanding their repeal for a long time. This demand has met with a fierce reaction from religious extremists, who are no more a marginalized group in Pakistan,” Sayeed told DW.

He also criticized the Pakistani judiciary for its alleged sympathetic behavior toward the right-wing. “Asia Bibi is still languishing in jail, while Mumtaz Qadri (Taseer’s assassin), is still alive,” he said.

‘Intolerance is becoming mainstream’

There have also been reports of hundreds of members of the Hindu community trading Pakistan for India, citing mistreatment, discrimination and persecution in their homeland as reasons.

Continue reading Venom spread into the whole of society: the arrest of a young Pakistani Christian girl on blasphemy charges

Military Exceptionalism in Pakistan

by Anatol Lieven

First 500 words: Since Pakistan achieved independence in 1947, the country’s military has governed the country outright three times and exerted a strong political influence even when not in power.Pakistan’s tradition of military dominance stems above all from the fact that the Pakistani military is the only institution that works more or less as it is meant to, as measured against the generally accepted standards of a modern state institution. This creates the belief among some sections of Pakistan’s population that the efficiency displayed by the military within its own sphere can be extended via military government to the working of the state as a whole. This belief, however, is a mistake. Each time the military takes over the entire Pakistani system, it soon finds that the state is so weak that it has no choice but to work through the same old local elites, using the familiar methods of patronage, corruption and exploitation of kinship ties. …

Read more » The International Institute of Strategic Studies

China is not eager to jump in Afpak conflict

– Analysis: China to keep Pakistan embrace at arm’s length

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING: (Reuters) – Pakistan, facing a crisis with the United States, has leaned closely to longtime partner China, offering its “all-weather friendship” with Beijing as an alternative to Washington.

But Pakistan will be disappointed if it hopes to replace American patronage with the same from China.

While China does not welcome the U.S. presence near its border, it wants stability on its western flank and believes an abrupt withdrawal of Washington’s support for Pakistan could imperil that. It also does not want to upset warming relations with India by getting mired in subcontinent security tension.

Maintaining that delicate balance, China will continue supporting economic cooperation with Pakistan but go slow on defense cooperation. While outwardly all smiles and warm pledges of friendship, China will quietly keep things at arms length.

“I think they see what’s going on in the U.S.-Pakistan front at the moment as reason to tread very carefully,” said Andrew Small, a researcher at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Brussels who studies China-Pakistan ties and often visits both countries.

“They are taking extra care to make sure that what’s going on in the relationship is correctly understood, not reflecting any willingness to rush in or fill the gap or exploit differences.”

Pakistan’s brittle relationship with the United States, its major donor, has turned openly rancorous. Washington accused Pakistan’s powerful ISI spy agency of directly backing the Afghan Taliban-allied Haqqani network and of providing support for a September 13 attack on the U.S. mission in Kabul. ….

Read more → Reuters

How Democracy Can Work in the Middle East

By Fareed Zakaria

When Frank Wisner, the seasoned U.S. diplomat and envoy of President Obama, met with Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday, Feb. 1, the scene must have been familiar to both men. For 30 years, American diplomats would enter one of the lavish palaces in Heliopolis, the neighborhood in Cairo from which Mubarak ruled Egypt. The Egyptian President would receive the American warmly, and the two would begin to talk about American-Egyptian relations and the fate of Middle East peace. Then the American might gently raise the issue of political reform. The President would tense up and snap back, “If I do what you want, the Islamic fundamentalists will seize power.” The conversation would return to the latest twist in the peace process.

It is quite likely that a version of this exchange took place on that Tuesday. Mubarak would surely have warned Wisner that without him, Egypt would fall prey to the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Islamist political movement. He has often reminded visitors of the U.S.’s folly in Iran in 1979, when it withdrew support for a staunch ally, the Shah, only to see the regime replaced by a nasty anti-American theocracy. But this time, the U.S. diplomat had a different response to the Egyptian President’s arguments. It was time for the transition to begin. (Watch a TIME video on the revolt in Egypt.)

And that was the message Obama delivered to Mubarak when the two spoke on the phone on Feb. 1. “It was a tough conversation,” said an Administration official. Senior national-security aides gathered around a speakerphone in the Oval Office to listen to the call. Mubarak made it clear how difficult the uprising had been for him personally; Obama pressed the Egyptian leader to refrain from any violent response to the hundreds of thousands in the streets. But a day later, those streets — which had been remarkably peaceful since the demonstrations began — turned violent. In Cairo, Mubarak supporters, some of them wading into crowds on horseback, began battering protesters.

It was a reminder that the precise course that Egypt’s revolution will take over the next few days and weeks cannot be known. The clashes between the groups supporting and opposing the government mark a new phase in the conflict. The regime has many who live off its patronage, and they could fight to keep their power. But the opposition is now energized and empowered. And the world — and the U.S. — has put Mubarak on notice.
Read more: Time