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General as NSA makes talks with India tough: Pakistan daily

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Islamabad: If talks between India and Pakistan take place, “they are now likely to have a very different tone and tenor” due to the appointment of a retired army general as Pakistan’s NSA, a leading daily said on Monday.

An editorial “NSA appointment” in the influential daily Dawn said that in the appointment of recently retired army general Nasser Khan Janjua as the country’s new national security adviser are two stories.

“The first story is the military’s attempt to wrest away seemingly any space from the civilian government in the national security and foreign policy domains. In capturing the NSA slot, there are several advantages to the military.”

“The NSA is an important job and offers direct access to the civilian side of key foreign countries, which only awkwardly have been able to officially liaise with the military thus far. As NSA, Sartaj Aziz played a frontline role in reaching out to Afghanistan and India – and did so in a manner that reflected the civilian government’s priorities,” it said.

The daily pointed out that in the case of India, that was what led to the debacle that was Ufa. “…It is difficult to imagine Janjua being at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s side and an Ufa-type declaration being approved by the Pakistani side.”

“Moreover, if talks do go ahead between the Indian and Pakistani NSAs, they are now likely to have a very different tone and tenor than if a PML-N appointee were to lead those talks,” it added.

Giving the other side of the story, the editorial noted the failings of the civilians.

“It was Sharif’s decision at the time of the cabinet formation in 2013 to retain the foreign and defence ministry portfolios for himself that set in motion a chain of events that have led to the present sorry state of affairs.”

“Compounding that original mistake, Aziz was made both special adviser on foreign affairs and NSA – merging foreign policy with national security to no obvious benefit and allowing both the Foreign Office and the NSA position to suffer,” it added.

The daily noted that the listless foreign policy performance of the government “created the opportunity for deep military intrusion”.

“Even on India, the only foreign policy issue the prime minister has shown sustained interest in, there have been a series of errors, culminating with Ufa, which has virtually eliminated any possibility of civilian initiatives on India,” the daily said.

“If the military has eagerly grabbed space for itself, it is partly because a three-term prime minister and his veteran advisers have proved utterly inept in the foreign policy and national security domains.

“…Worryingly, the government may find itself further squeezed out, even domestically.”

(IANS)

 

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Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Pakistan, Religious Freedom
Members and supporters of the Muslim Student Organization (MSO) chant slogans during a protest after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Islamabad, Pakistan. VOA

The United States said Tuesday it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the U.S. government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.

Pompeo a year earlier had placed Pakistan on a special watch list – a step short of the designation – in what had been seen as a U.S. tactic to press Islamabad into reforms.

Human rights advocates have long voiced worry about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, including Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians.

Sikh, Religious Freedom
A Sikh pilgrim visits the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

But the timing of the full designation may be jarring as it comes after Pakistan moved to resolve its most high-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October releasing Asia Bibi – a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy.

The government recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal.

“In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” he said.

Nine countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern – China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

pakistan,Sikh, Religious Freedom
Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, center, arrives along with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, second left, brother Atal Yousafzai, left, and the principal of all-boys Swat Cadet College Guli Bagh, during her hometown visit, March 31, 2018. VOA

The United States removed one country from the list – Uzbekistan– but kept it on the watch list.

Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.

Also Read: The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the heterodox Christian group known for proselytization.

Also on the watch list was the Comoros, the Indian Ocean archipelago that is almost exclusively Sunni Muslim. (VOA)