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Nuke deal with US turns out to be a reverie for Pakistan

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By Arka Mondal

New Delhi:There are obvious reasons behind the US shying away from inking the epic nuke deal with Pakistan. USA very well knows that in Pakistan the biggest debacle is not any militia like Al Qaeda or Taliban but the country’s army itself. Democracy is a rare word in the Pakistani history as on numerous occasions coups triggered by the Army chief toppled the elected government and usurped control over the militancy-ravaged nation. The Pakistan army that nurtures an innate virtue of unremitting hostility against India has ceaselessly tailed its nefarious motives over the country’s interest.

It is common in Pakistan that the army has stymied the elected government from developing a healthy relation with India. When Nawaz Sharif tried to mend ties with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi via his ‘mango diplomacy’, the Army came into the fray and literally arm-twisted Sharif and refrained him from doing a patch up.  USA does understand that Pakistan presenting dossiers on India’s alleged involvement in trying to destabilize the country is nothing but a disgruntled move to garner support. The international community is well aware of the fact that for the last forty years the army has actively backed terrorist outfits in Afghanistan which has led to death of American soldiers posted in the country. The fact that Taliban spearhead Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden were traced in Pakistani soil had also irked US diplomats.

Back in 2014, a soft-coup engineered by the army forced Premier Nawaz Sharif to change his stance and chalk out a new foreign policy according to the directives of the armed forces. Sharif had no other options of clinging on to power but to surrender before the whims and fancies of the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Moreover, Pakistan failed miserably to justify its nuclear expansion strategy.  For long the country has been giving lame excuses of bolstering its nuclear arsenal to nullify India’s nuke program and military prowess.  Strangely, while India produces five nuclear warheads in a year, Pakistan stockpiles around 20. The American reluctance in the nuke deal can also be attributed to the fact that USA has become apprehensive of the statistics on nukes being mysteriously lost or accidentally used from Pakistan’s arsenal.

If USA okayed the nuke deal, it knew India would also beef up its nuclear prowess to thwart the challenge. This would arguably lead to a cold warlike situation in the Indian subcontinent with China, a higher nuke equipped nation, taking a stand. Moreover, USA’s military campaign in Afghanistan has drawn flak among several global quarters and Washington can ill afford to make a wrong move at this juncture.

Pakistan did try to present Kashmir as a rationale behind expanding its nuclear arsenal. But Islamabad is reluctant to accept the reality that during the partition it was the ruler of Kashmir who preferred India over Pakistan. Moreover, India has stationed over 50000 soldiers in Kashmir to neutralize any Pakistani attack.

As Pakistan continues to bicker with the Kashmir issue, it frequently ignores that each and every day the country is being torn in tatters with bomb blasts and subversive activities. Instead of grumbling and asking for favours from a superpower, it is high time for Pakistan to understand that it has to revamp its policy to deal with India who is firm on its stand that there is no possibility of a dialogue unless Pakistan ratifies the treaties.

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Pakistan Reacts Sharply To U.S. Religious Freedom Charges

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused

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Pakistan
A Pakistani nun holds a candle during a vigil for victims of a deadly suicide bombing in a park, March 28, 2016, in Lahore. VOA

Pakistan is denouncing a U.S. decision to place it on a list of countries Washington says are the worst offenders of religious freedom.

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities… there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise,” the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a strongly-worded statement.

The reaction comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his designation of “countries of particular concern” that allegedly have engaged in or tolerated ”systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Freedom Violations

The countries on the blacklist are exposed to punitive sanctions, but Pompeo waived them for Pakistan, citing U.S. national interests.

Pakistan had until now been on a U.S. watch list for governments that have “engaged in or tolerated” severe violations of religious freedom.

Pakistan
Pakistani volunteers collect debris from an Ahmadi mosque demolished by an angry mob, in the eastern city of Sialkot. VOA

While rebuking Tuesday’s U.S. pronouncement as “unilateral and politically motivated,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry noted Pakistan is “a multi-religious and pluralistic society” of more than 200 million people, mostly Muslims.

“Around four percent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths. Ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan,” it said.

Ahmadis most persecuted community

The statement did not mention the Ahmadi sect, which critics say is the most persecuted minority in Pakistan. The constitution bars the community from “posing as Muslims” and from calling their worship places “mosques.”

U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback while defending downgrading of Pakistan reiterated Tuesday the challenges facing the Ahmadi community.

USA, Pakistan
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, speaks to reporters at the State Department in Washington. VOA

“The Pakistani government criminalizes the identification of Ahmadis as Muslims, and then also — and this one has really been difficult and troubling for a lot of people — the government often fails to hold accountable perpetrators of killings and violence against members of religious minorities targeted on account of their religious beliefs or affiliations,” said Brownback.

Blasphemy laws

He cited, among other things, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as a cause for the downgrade of the country’s religious freedom ranking. The laws prescribe the death penalty for those found guilty.

Rights groups have long complained Islamist groups misuse the law to intimidate minorities in the country.

Insulting Islam or its prophet is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where mere allegations have led to mob lynchings. A former provincial governor, a federal minister, judges and lawyers are among those assassinated in Pakistan by extremists merely for calling for reform of the blasphemy laws to prevent their misuse or for hearing cases and defending alleged blasphemers.

Asia Bibi

In a historic judgement this past October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been on death row for eight years after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. The women denied the charges from the outset as an outcome of a local feud and the country’s highest court cited lack of evidence in overturning her conviction by a lower court.

Pakistan
Radical Islamists rally to condemn a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA

Bibi and her family have been in hiding since her release. Her lawyer fled Pakistan shortly after the landmark court ruling announced on October 31, saying his life was in danger.

Bibi is awaiting a rehearing of her case by the Supreme Court and is residing in a safe place under government protection, say Pakistani officials.

Pakistan also arrested hundreds of Islamist activists and their leaders last month for staging days of mass violent protests to denounce the court for freeing Bibi.

Also Read: Muslims in Malaysia Rally In Kuala Lumpur To Keep Status

The government has charged the detainees with treason and terrorism and officials have vowed to put them on trial in special courts.

“It’s our hope that they will, the new leadership in Pakistan, will work to improve the situation. There was some encouraging signs seen recently on how they’ve handled some of the recent protesting against the blasphemy laws, and we continue to watch very carefully what’s happening to Asia Bibi,” said Brownback.

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused of committing severe violations of religious freedom. (VOA)