Category Archives: Human Rights

India’s Citizenship Amendment Act: An Insidious Case of Bigotry by Modi

The racist new Indian citizenship law hides behind the skirts of refugee issues but in reality it intends to disempower Muslims in India. We in Pakistan are very fortunate to enjoy our own country’s citizenship. 

The right to citizenship is the right to have other rights, such as the right to vote. However, laced with discrimination, grounded in antipathy, on 11 December 2019, in order to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955, the Parliament of India passed a very controversial new law in the form of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 which will grant Indian citizenship to religious minorities such as Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Parsis, Jains and persecuted Hindus; but which pointedly excludes Muslims. This new citizenship law was championed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and effectively formalized on 12 December by President Ram Nath Kovind. It has been met with large scale protests across India with critics citing it as grossly divisive, exclusivist, discriminatory and likely to further polarise Indian society. Much is being discussed about the increasing possibility of India abandoning its foundational ‘secular structure’ and heading towards a regressive route marked by overt Hindu supremacy following the passing of this the new law.

President of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Asaduddin Owaisi lambasted the Islamophobic new law, denouncing that ‘We are heading toward totalitarianism, a fascist state…We are making India a theocratic country.’ Acclaimed Indian author Arundhati Roy likened the new law to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws of the Third Reich: ‘Are we going to stand in line once again, obediently, and comply with this policy that eerily resembles the 1935 Nuremberg Laws of the Third Reich? If we do, India will cease to exist. We are faced with the biggest challenge since Independence.’ To provide a bit of historical context to this chilling comparison, it must be noted that the 1935 Nuremberg Laws were predicated on the ‘Protection of German Blood and German Honour.’ Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Discussion, Human Rights, Immigration, India, Islamophobia, Legislation, Pakistan, Politics, Refugees

Paradoxes in Pakistan’s Human Rights Case for Kashmir

After the demise of the Cold War, regional and internal conflicts had the chance to come on the international theatre. Their nature was not merely confined to the ideological context but had strong affiliations to their political, economic, geographical, cultural and historical outlooks. Following the abrupt emergence of internal issues, security problems exacerbated the international concerns that persuaded states to ascribe new threats to their integrity and led to overwhelming execution of authoritative actions. The world sadly witnessed the Bosnian genocide, Rwandan genocide, discriminatory atrocities in Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir and in various parts of the world in all magnitudes. The United Nations and various international and regional organisations raised their voices to oppose these events, but later the terror attack of 9/11 provided legitimacy to state sponsored outrages against human rights. These developments together resulted in the eventual breakdown of the whole international legal regime.

Presently, reports on the Syrian civil war and Xinjiang triggered substantial reaction of world community on human rights violations that indicates positive reaffirmation of its significance in international arena. Despite all poorer developments regarding declining of legal regimes, it is fortunate that the world community firmly believes in denial of human rights abuses. Following the repercussions of the Syrian civil war, the Kurds emerged as a well organized western ally in convoluted scenario of Middle East who not only defeated Islamic State of Iraq and Levant but also seized complete control over the North East part of Syria, a de facto autonomous region known as Rojava. Continue reading

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Filed under China, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Politics, Turkey

The #MeToo Narrative in Pakistan

As the global feminist movement reaches Pakistan, it challenges the status quo and looks to encapsulate more than sexual harassment.

Pakistan is definitely not the most women-friendly country on earth. UN Women ranked it one of the lowest in the world in terms of gender equality. Violence against women has been widespread and an ever-growing issue. Rape, acid attacks, domestic abuse, forced marriages and, honor killings are rampant in the country even today. Disturbing realities are still reported. The 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development categorized Pakistan among the worst performing countries in terms of female education. Pakistani NGO, Movement for Solidarity Peace stated that there were thousands of women abductions for forced marriages, especially targeting minority women. Human Rights Watch estimated 1000 honor killings per year as latest as 2019. But one thing for women in Pakistan has certainly changed, the narrative for women’s empowerment has escaped from global conventions and election speeches to streets and internet. In today’s age Pakistan’s commitment to women rights is shown by its evolving narrative around #MeToo, women rights and, a growing anti-patriarchal attitude.

The role of women in Pakistan, since its inception, has been largely limited to households with much of the reason submerged in religion and culture. Pakistan’s main religion, Islam, has largely been interpreted as patriarchal; giving men an overarching edge over women in terms of rights and freedom. The small breathing space left for women liberation is swallowed by cultural values and societal norms that place further restrictions on women. Legislation has been equally, if not more disappointing. While the draconian Hudood Ordinance was repealed after years of blinkered discrimination against women in 2006, it was far from enough to rid the constitution of bias. In fact, only recently a province distributed burqas to female students to observe purdah (religious attire) within school. With such depressing status-quo, the recent advancements are notable and a sonorous display of modernization. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Human Rights, Islam, Pakistan, Politics, Women

Aimriya Zubery: Lifeline: Survival or resistance, a fight for each

The cost of continuing not to change should not go unnoticed. 

If one were to recall, scenes of total jubilation were afloat in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir, in response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address at the UN General Assembly. In his plea to the United Nations for intervention, Khan illustrated his views rather emotionally, and appeared to be apprehensive about the times of when the lockdown is likely to be lifted. A hundred days in and the clampdown remains in a state of paralysis with Kashmir heavily occupied by a force armed to the teeth. The increased propensity of fear looms with the rise in the fall of voices on deaf ears. In the hearts and minds of many, the lack of negotiation or perhaps even arbitration paint dire straits. The world has now been addressed, sentiments have been poured out before the policymaking and deliberative organ of the UN and Kashmir awaits for the unknown

Two scenarios have emerged, a victory for the centrist political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) where their leader and Prime Minister to Pakistan has returned grateful for having been able to fight the case for Kashmir – as much as their intention may not have been to score political points, whereas the other leans towards the numerous questions raised for whether it was Kashmir being fought for or the humanitarian crisis with this inhumane siege, or perhaps whether it would really reinstate the law that has been scrapped in Indian-held Kashmir. Be it a plea for UN intervention, quest for justice or the unequivocal pitch, as applaud worthy as it may all be, the Himalayan region remains disputed and the UN silent, or at most – urges to dial down. Intervention in this jingoistic narrative is much awaited by many. By those that fear the army personnel, by those scrambling for medicines, by those disconnected, as well as those directly suffering as the economy now stifles. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Politics

Ana Husain: Beyond Nationalism: The Kurdish Dilemma Re-examined

The Kurdish Question warrants a more comprehensive examination

Seemingly intractable, positively complex – the question of the Kurds has been an area of contention in Middle-East politics, dating back to the Kurds’ frequent rebellions against the Ottoman Empire. Turkey’s decision to launch ‘Operation Peace-Spring’ (the third major Turkish military operation in to Syria since 2016) in Syria on October 9, 2019 has been subject to polarising reception. Amid the volatility and added layers of developments, it is imperative to be familiarized with the roots of the conflict in a bid to get to the heart of the dilemma. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, new states such as Turkey and Iraq, as well as Iran and Syria inherited the unresolved issues of Kurdish quests for autonomy. Notably, according to a TRT report, “almost 10 per cent of the Syrian population, 15-20 per cent of the Turkish, 20 per cent of the Iraqi, and 10 per cent of the Iranian populations are Kurdish.” With respect to Turkey, the modern roots of the conflict resurfaced after the 1919–1923 Turkish War of Independence but took a more violent turn after the establishment of the Kurdish militant and political organization, the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê).

Clashes between state forces and the PKK piqued in 1984 and the 1990s amid the organizations’ declared goals of establishing an independent state in south-eastern Turkey through armed-struggle. The Turkish state’s enactment of more unitary and assimilationist policies – with the endeavour to promote and cultivate a unifying, national identity – have often been at the centre of the debate pertaining to ‘reactionary’ and ‘radicalized’ Kurdish nationalism and militancy. What often goes amiss in discussions focusing on a clash of competing nationalisms in Turkey is the considerable integration of Kurdish communities in Turkish society. Those communities adamant on their rejection of social-integration and assimilation gave way to militancy, with the rise of the PKK. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Pakistan Horizon, Syria, The Middle East, Turkey

‘The fear of escalation between India and Pakistan is very real’

A member of the PM’s advisory council on foreign affairs says going to war over Kashmir will not go well with a broken economy … watch video

“Today is the 75th day of the brutal curfew in India-held Kashmir invoking a nuclear threat,” said Dr Rabia Akhtar, director of a policy research centre and a member of the prime minister’s advisory council on foreign affairs. She was speaking at a programme titled ‘Kashmir: a Nuclear Flashpoint’ at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Friday. “Since February, when India attacked Pakistan in Balakot, people have been worried. But during the Balakot strikes, Prime Minister Imran Khan refrained from the ‘N’ word. Neither did the DG ISPR mention it,” she continued. She also added that “When the prime minister visited the US earlier in July and met President Trump there, he told him about the Kashmir crisis. Then he comes back and faces the August 5 development there with India revoking the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, it was Syria, Iran, the Turks and the Kurds whom the world watched and spoke about but India has internationalised Kashmir.”

Dr Akhtar, who is the director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Policy Research (CSSPR), said that in a January 2002 interview, former adviser to Pakistan’s National Command Authority and pioneer director general of the Strategic Plans Division retired Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai had mentioned four thresholds for Pakistan in case India attacked Islamabad such as the spatial threshold, the military, economic and socio-political threshold. “At the time, our forces were on a 10-month stand-off,” she explained. She said that literature written by Western scholars on the issue showed Pakistan as the weaker power that must maintain escalation dominance. “They say that Pakistan will be first to use nuclear weapons,” she said, adding: “But, there always used to be a third-party intervention in crisis termination until the Pulwama incident when Pakistan unconditionally released India’s pilot. It was unprecedented behaviour from Pakistan.” Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon

The Yemen Question?

The turning point was when the Houthis took control of Sanaa, the capital in 2014 and from there they started to expand to the west and east of Yemen.

In order to fully understand the current state of Yemen, it is important that we zoom into history and try analyzing what went wrong and where. For much of the past century, the country has been divided into The Yemen Arab Republic in the north and People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the south. Ottoman and British rule managed to keep the two separated but in 1990 these were unified under one flag and this was the beginning of crisis. If we look at the cultural and political divisions, these two parts are way different in two aspects. For almost a thousand years, the north  had been under the theocratic rule of the Zaidi Shiites (the Zaidi sect of Islam is almost wholly present in Yemen and they believe that Muslims should only be ruled by the Imams – those who are the descendants to the Prophet), as opposed to this, the south was transformed from a scratch by the British during their rule. These differences took a conflicting turn after the two were united in 1990.

Looking at the religious division more closely the Zaidi Shiites predominate the north, with a minority Ismaili sect, whereas, the Sunni sect of Islam dominates elsewhere. Sectarianism was not really a problem until recently. Previously, a more tolerant society prevailed. Indeed, various exchanges between the two communities had been observed and inter-community marriages were normal and considered a routine in Yemen. However, the rise of political Islam led to an upsurge of tensions and with the emergence of radicalism, groups like Muslim Brotherhood and Zaidi Houthis emerged and expanded. With the spread of Salafi ideology in the predominant Zaidi areas, the expansion of Houthis was needed. Initially Houthis emerged as a theological revivalist movement in 2004 fearing the spread of Salafi ideology in the dominant Shiite areas.

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Saudi Arabia, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States, Yemen