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January 19, 2018

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Unjustified ‘special watch’ by USA for so-called violations of religious freedom

It is unfortunate that USA under President Donald Trump consistently trying to damage Pakistan through leveling baseless and imaginative and unjustified allegations, ranging from allegedly “providing safe havens to terrorists including Haqqani network to now religious discriminations in the country.

President Donald Trump sometimes demands do more on unspecific and confused terminologies just to cover up its own failures in the so-called ‘war on terror’. When all allegations proved baseless it started harping on new tune of alleged protection of Haqqani network by Pakistan despite the fact that the CIA was fully aware of the actual protectors of the network where it is now completely under the protection of NDS, which is being used as catalyst to prolong presence of US army in Afghanistan. The longer the presence of US Army in Afghanistan the more dollars would pour in the country.

It is unfortunate that this game is being played at the cost of stability of Pakistan. The recent tweet of President Trump leveling serious allegations of “lie and deceit” was nothing but to divert the attention of the US citizens from the on-going investigation against him regarding his alleged collusion with Russia to influence the elections in America. He demanded Pakistan to do more once again whereas USA had failed miserably to effectively fight against terrorism in the Middle East, South Asia and particularly in Afghanistan. In fact, it is now the turn of USA to do more to fulfill its part of commitment to the war on terror, which was started by it and Pakistan supported it by laying lives of more than 70 thousand innocent causalities and putting its economy at stake.

The bias against Pakistan can further well be judged from the recent unjustified and discriminatory announcement whereby US has placed Pakistan on a “special watch” list for "severe violations" of “religious freedom” allegedly consequent to the consistent advocacy of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for designating Pakistan as a CPC since 2002.

It is strange that the Commission was consistently advocating placing Pakistan on watch list but it took USA 16 years to decide to announce this only when President Donald Trump termed Pakistan as “deceitful and liar”. Pakistan has the right to ask as to who authorise USA to a sovereign state on watch list and USA seemed to have assumed the role a monitor against Pakistan.

Hold on dear President Donald Trump and let me take you back to your own country to flag the performance of “great America” in the field of “religious freedom”. The list of religious intolerance in America is long which include increase of hate crimes against Middle Eastern descents from 354 attacks in 2000 to 1501 attacks in 2001 after 9/11 attack; more than 200 serious hate crimes against Arab Americans and American Muslims after Oklahoma bombing; several attacks against Muslims after US Representative Joe Walsh made a public statement in August 2017 against Muslims including acid bomb attack on a Muslim School in Lombard, Illinois as well as hate graffiti in a Muslim cemetery; attacks on mosques with pellet guns, acid bombs, eggs or unclean animal parts; copies of Holy Quran were burnt by Terry Jones in the church; burning of copies of Holy Quran by US soldiers in Afghanistan on February 20, 2012; killing of a 17-years old Virginia students by 22-year old Darwin Martinez Torres with a metal baseball bat where the American media tried to give it a colour of heated arguments about traffic, which led to the killing of the girl; 57% increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents from 2015 to 2016 as per the report of the Council on American-Islamic Affairs (CAIR) coupled with 44% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the same period; anti-Muslim and Islam statements by Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka; and last but not least the interview of President Trump with Fox News in 2015 saying to “look at the idea of closing mosques in the United States”.

Mr President Trump these above figures religious intolerance is from your country and where is this so called Commission on regions violation. Will you not call it as double standards?

Before you talk about discrimination in Islam or religious intolerance in Muslims, you must know that the anti-Muslim rhetoric in your own country is nothing new. Although the United States is a nation that boasts religious freedom, yet the Muslims find it unsafe to practice Islam in it. Throughout the country, Muslim women retired their Hijabs and headdresses in fear of harm and men considered shaving their beards since the 9/11 attacks. Although some 60 Muslims were killed in the 9/11 attacks yet Muslims had received criminal threats against mosques; harassment in schools; and reports of violence targeting Muslim in your country.

Your administration while putting Pakistan on a special watch list on “severe violations” of religious freedom recently stated that: The government of Pakistan continues, "To perpetrate and tolerate systematic, on-going, and egregious religious freedom violations and religiously discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislation”. The statement is based on heresy and bogus reports generated by some so-called NGOs, which collects funds in the name of minorities and created religious divides.

Mr president, before issuing this-derogatory statement against Pakistan, someone from your administration should have taken pain to read out the provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan relating to the rights of minorities. However, for your information, I would like to draw your attention to Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan guaranteeing every citizen “the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion” and “the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions”. Similarly, Article 36 places responsibility on the State to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the federal and provincial services” including having representation in the parliament.

It is, therefore, obvious that the Constitution equally protects and safeguards the rights of the entire citizens of Pakistan regardless of their religion, race, gender and ethnicity. By incorporating Article 2A in the Constitution, the minorities of Pakistan were not only protected as citizen of Pakistan but also their rights as minorities. It is, therefore, inappropriate to suggest that Article 2A was in any way against the rights of the minorities.

Now let me point out your discrimination and your favour to your new friend PM Modi although he had deep hatred towards Muslims and other non-Hindu minorities including Christians in India.

India historically touts itself as a secular state, which is true in theory but not in reality. According to a report, out of 198 countries, India has been ranked as fourth worst in the world for religious intolerance.

Since 2015, many people across the country have fallen victim to incidents of mob lynching related to religious intolerance, which commonly resulted over petty issues. Recently, there has been a surge in cases of public lynching by self-styled ‘gao rakshaks’ or ‘cow protectors’ in different parts of the country over beef eating and cow smuggling or slaughtering, being Muslims and Dalits among the victims but either the prime minister or respective chief ministers have failed to protect Muslims and Dalits from the attacks of extremist Hindus. Since April 2017, at least ten Muslim men have been lynched or killed in public in suspected hate crimes, amid a rising tide of Islam phobia in the country. Where is your commission and why India has not been placed on special watch list by USA?

In June, a special court in Gujarat convicted 24 people for their involvement in the mass killing of 69 people by a Hindu mob in Gulberg Society, a Muslim neighbourhood in Ahmedabad, during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Peoples Union for Human Rights (PUHR), a human rights organisation, which toured the riot affected areas of Gujarat and closely examined the anti-Muslim riots there has published its report wherein it has been stated that in the whole of Gujarat it was a one-sided violence against Muslims wherein 500 mosques, ‘dargahs’ and ‘imam-baras’ were demolished and in their places, religious places of the majority community were established. It is further stated in the report that during the riots the state ministers, MLAs and VHP leaders were sitting in the police control room and inciting and directing the rioters against Muslims and that the state government is fully responsible for anti-Muslim riots of Gujarat.

The Indian government’s continuing failure to rein in militant groups, combined with inflammatory remarks made by some BJP leaders, has contributed to the impression that leaders are indifferent to growing intolerance. Why USA is continuously ignoring it.

Mr president, the way you have given numerous statements against Muslims time and time again, do fall into the category of your religious intolerance for Islam. Muslims face a visible religious discrimination and bias in your country as a study that was conducted back in 2015 revealed the facts about how Christianity is a dominant religion in USA.

It is time for the public of USA to ask their government to revisit its geo political strategies and stop using religious divide as the key quotient in other countries.

The world had previously witnessed how the religious divide was used in Iraq, which is still suffering because of this religious divide. And it is this religious divide, which has given emergence to a lethal terrorist outfit namely Daesh.

Pakistan is a country where all religions are being freely practiced and hence one or two incidents cannot be termed as the basis to put Pakistan on USA’s self-created watch list, ignoring India for massive religious intolerance and including your own country where religious violations is creating insecurity for non-Christian living in USA. We Pakistani respect all religions but we will not tolerate any priest Terry Jones like injurious statements or action against our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Islam. The world expects from USA to promote interfaith harmony worldwide and not the religious divide, which it needs to put to an end.

The writer is Chairman of think tank "Global Eye" & former Interior Minister of Pakistan. @Email: [email protected], Twitter @Senrehmanmalik, @GlobalEye_GSA, WhatsApp +923325559393

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