Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

13 August 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No.105

COAS Gen Bajwa to visit Saudi Arabia soon

The proposed visit of Pakistan's military chief to Saudi Arabia, a joint statement from women journalists on threats to them and the FATF bills

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
COAS Gen Bajwa to visit Saudi Arabia soon

As per a Dawn article, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff will visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 16 August, in an attempt to resolve diplomatic strains over the Kashmir issue. The COAS’s visit is to ensure amicable bilateral ties and ensure the promised financial support for Pakistan from Saudi Arabia. (“COAS to visit S. Arabia on 16th,” Dawn, 13 August 2020) (“COAS to visit Saudi Arabia in quest to smooth ties,” Dawn, 13 August 2020)

Immediate background: Shah Mehmud Qureshi’s statement
Previously, Riyadh was displeased by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi’s unusually sharp remarks to the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Countries. The FM warned OIC against dragging its feet on the matter of the Kashmir dispute and asked the organization to convene the Pakistan-requested Foreign Ministers’ meeting (CFM) on Jammu and Kashmir soon. Qureshi also reminded Saudi Arabia of how Pakistan had skipped the Kuala-Lumpur summit led by Turkey and Malaysia (considered an alternative to the OIC by Saudi) on Saudi’s request. Qureshi added that he fully understood the implications of his statement and that he was “taking a position despite our (Pakistan’s) good ties with Saudi Arabia”. Pakistan has been calling for a CFM meeting of the OIC ever since the revocation of Article 370 by the Indian government on 5 August 2019. (“Qureshi asks OIC to stop dragging feet on Kashmir meeting,” Dawn, 6 August 2020) Saudi’s lack of interest in taking up the Kashmir dispute has caused frustration among the ruling elite in Pakistan.

Domestic Criticism of Qureshi
Qureshi’s statements were strongly criticised by National Assembly Opposition leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif. He called the remarks "highly unfortunate and irresponsible", the height of irresponsibility and a diplomatic folly; tweeted "It flies in the face of history and Pakistan's trusted relationship with the Kingdom"; and said PTI's "cavalier" attitude would undermine Pakistan's core relations with friendly nations. ("Shahbaz assails Qureshi's remarks about Saudi Arabia," Dawn, 8 August 2020) An editorial in the Dawn criticised Qureshi's blunt criticism and the Foreign Office's statement regarding the clarity of foreign policy goals. The editorial states that the PM should explain the Pakistan’s road map, given the many geostrategic blocs in the Muslim world. The author asks if Pakistan intends to ally with any existing formations, or aims to create a new bloc with like-minded states? The article adds that Pakistan must take a moral stand without annoying its friends and benefactors. ("OIC criticism," Dawn, 8 August 2020)

The traditional allies
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are states that have been traditionally close. In 2018, Riyadh gave a $3 billion loan and $3.2bn oil credit facility to Pakistan. This was to aid Islamabad during its payment crisis. In addition to this, the 1.5 million Pakistani nationals residing in Saudi send back the most remittances to Pakistan. Over 27.5 per cent of total remittances comes from Saudi Arabia, followed by UAE (18.2%), US (14.4%) and UK (9.9%). (Asha Gul and Mahreen Mahmud, “Remittances from Saudi Arabia: A Community phenomenon,” Pakistan Institute of Development Economics) Pakistan and Saudi had also discussed expansion in defense cooperation, in March this year. (“Pakistan, Saudi Arabia discuss expansion in defence cooperation,” Dawn, 3 March 2020) Further, despite the pandemic, Riyadh became one among the top Middle Eastern export destinations for Pakistani goods. Exports to KSA increased by 34 per cent in June 2020 compared to the corresponding period of the previous fiscal year.


From the archives: Women journalists from a workshop hosted by the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) in Karachi in 2019 (Image Source: Pakistantoday.com)

Women journalists seek protection against “vicious attacks” on social media
A group of well-known female journalists and commentators in Pakistan issued a joined statement in which they have sought protection against what they termed “vicious attacks” directed towards them via social media allegedly by people linked to the PTI government. The statement which is said to be signed by 30 female journalists belonging to various media outlets and mediums, also stated that the attacks were making it “incredibly difficult” for them to carry out their professional duties. (“Women journalists seek protection against attacks on social media,” Dawn, 13 August 2020)

The statement shared on Twitter with hashtag #AttacksWontSilenceUs, said “The target of these attacks is women with differing viewpoints and those whose reports have been critical of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, and more specifically its handling of the coronavirus pandemic,” further adding that these online attacks were initiated by government officials and then amplified by a large number of Twitter accounts.
Benazir Shah, Asma Shirazi, Mehmal Sarfaraz, Amber Rahim Shamsi and Reema Omer are some who have signed the statement among other women journalists and analysts.

Nature of the abuse
According to the declaration, personal details of women journalists and analysts had been made public while in some cases, their pictures and videos had been morphed. Further, many other them were referred to use as peddlers of “fake news”, “enemy of the people” and accused of other such things. Further, others were targeted for their gender, posting gender-based insults and threats of sexual and physical violence on their social media. More recently, attempts to hack into these journalists' social media accounts have also occurred. As a result of this climate of abuse and threats, these journalists were forced to self-censor, filtering their views as they were prevented from exercising their right to free speech and participate in public discourse.

Calls for accountability
The statement demanded that the government “immediately restrain its members from repeatedly targeting women in the media” and “send out a clear message to all party members to desist from launching these attacks, whether directly or indirectly”. Further, it also asked the government to “hold all such individuals within the government accountable and take action against them”. Further, the statement also called on the National Assembly and Senate standing committees on human rights to take notice of the threatening environment. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) strongly condemned these attacks, expressing solidarity with the women journalist. PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfiqar and secretary-general Nasir Zaidi went on to demanded that the FIA’s cybercrime wing immediately identify the offenders behind these attacks.

Trolls and hate
An analysis in Dawn while being critical of the issue looks into the psyche behind this not only futile but is a counterproductive action. What does one achieve from by engaging in abuse? Ultimately, it’s futile to use abuse as a weapon in social engagements. Noting that a large number of young men who are being encouraged to engage in abusive and threatening behaviour against the critics of the government are growing increasingly frustrated, and searching for new ways to escalate their hateful conduct. Further, adding that what is even worse is that this behaviour has been normalised from the very top. This toxic behaviour will stunt the growth and development of those young men who are been encouraged to involve in such activities. To address the issue the analysis states that what is needed is a top to bottom approach, starting with the prime minister to loudly and visibly start discouraging this behaviour, followed by condemnation of it then penalties, arrests and prosecution. (Khurram Husain, “Trolls and hate,” Dawn, 13 August 2020)

Media continues to be under siege
Although there is exposure today with a high level of awareness at both the national and international levels on the media freedom within Pakistan it has however not been sufficient enough to deter those who target the media. The attackers almost always getaway. Further, the problem is twofold, not is the media targeted by the country's "deep state," which cannot stand independent journalism, has increased dramatically since Imran Khan became prime minister in July 2018" but also are targeted by non-State actors – from the militant groups to extreme Right, groups who have targeting seniors, journalists, for their liberal views and anti-extremists writings/postings. (“Media under siege: Who is targeting the journalists? And why?,” Pakistan Reader, 28 July 2020)


 (Image Source: Dawn)

NA Passed five more FATF bills
On 12 August, five more FATF- related law passed through the National Assembly. The bills that were the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, the Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, the Companies (Amendment) Bill, the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill, and the ICT Trust Bill.

The opposition objected Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s speech, and said, they had initially linked the passage of the legislation of national importance to changes in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance during National Assembly. Minister also called, PPP MNA, Agha Rafiullah an “immature” parliamentarian. (“Opposition again helps govt pass FATF-elated laws”, Dawn, 13 August 2020)

The Minister exclaimed that there were no objections from the opposition over the bill and this was confirmed by main parties like PPP and PML-N. However, the Balochistan National Party (Mengal) opposed the clauses of the bill. The BNP-Mengal chief asked the government to clarify the definition of terrorism and questioned the bill on grounds of who can be stated be declared as a terrorist and highlighted the possible misuse of the bill. (Javaid-ur-Rahman, “NA passes 5 Amend Bills,” The Nation, 13 August 2020)

In Brief
Sindh has completely failed: CJP       
The Supreme Court of Pakistan had expressed its displeasure over the dismal state of cleanliness in the city of Karachi, observing that the Sindh government had failed the province. The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard the case of illegal encroachments on drains at SC Karachi Registry. The Chief Justice told the advocate general Sindh that the Sindh provincial government had “turned Karachi into a goth” and exclaimed the presence of mosquitoes being prevalent. Although the advocate general stated that the issue will be rectified in two months, the Chief Justice shot a question asking how long the government has been in power. The CJP also asked about the public-private partnership boards set on highways in Sindh. He further grew critical of the corrupt elements on the ground that has made it difficult for the people of Karachi. (“CJP says Sindh has completely failed,” The Nation, 13 August 2020)

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi response to Loya Jirga recommendation on the release of prisoners
On 12 August, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, “Afghan leadership should seize this historic opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, broad-based and inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan”. As the decree for the release of the prisoner has been signed. He also said, “the success of the peace process would not only bring peace to Afghanistan but would also ensure stability in the region”. (“Kabul urged to seize opportunity for peace”, Dawn, 13 August 2020)

The US mediation
The editorial of the Dawn has been introspective of Pakistan’s approach to the United States and other ‘influential’ states to mediate between the country and India over Kashmir. It states that historically, the US has not prioritised much on South Asia regional complexities unless the issues on ground blew out of proportion. For example, the Kargil conflict of 1999 pushed the US to try and resolve the crisis. The editorial also states that the US plays a non-committal role in the region when candidates are preoccupied with domestic issues in the background of the elections. It acknowledges the presence of an active Indian-American lobby that makes the US avoid talking on important aspects concerning India and Pakistan. Rather, it suggests the Pakistan Government to engage with the US after the Presidential elections. The editorial has also been critical of India’s stance on Kashmir which the country calls as a ‘bilateral’ dispute in which the third party mediation is not welcomed. Citing this as a problem, the editorial suggests Pakistan to not depend on others to improve its ties with India. (“US mediation,” Dawn, 13 August 2020) 

Pakistan Intelligence agency says Cyber-attack by India
On 12 August 2020, Inter-Services Public Relations said, “Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have identified a major cyberattack by Indian intelligence agencies involving a range of cybercrimes, including deceitful fabrication by hacking personal mobiles and technical gadgets of government officials and military personnel”. As no further details have been given by the military. They also said, “Various targets of Hostile Intelligence Agencies are being investigated. Pakistan Army has further enhanced necessary measures to thwart such activities including action against violators of Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) on cybersecurity”. (“Intelligence agencies identify cyber-attack by India”, The Nation, 13 August 2020)

On the recent report by “Pakistan Outlook 2020”, said, The APT activity was deeply connected with geo-political situation, current events, and government priorities. It also highlighted, “With a right-wing fascist regime in power in India, such campaigns have increased and are more likely”. (“Probe into cyberattack by Indian spy networks launched”, Dawn, 13 August 2020)

Pakistan's World View
Biden’s Running Mate                                                                                    
The editorial of The Nation has been critical of the United States on various issues in its relationship with Pakistan. It starts on the note that the domestic audience in the US may find many differences between the political manifestos of Republican and Democratic parties. However, in view of the country’s foreign policy, many countries, particularly the ones invaded by the US virtually perceive it as the same. The editorial adds that many in Pakistan feared a change in its relationship with the US after Donald Trump became the President. But with just a couple of months to go for yet another presidential election, it has been perceived that Trump was neither the best nor the worst for Pakistan. On the issue of human rights, the editorial points out at the silence of the US over Indian activities in Jammu and Kashmir similar to that of Israel’s actions over Gaza. It has also stated the bonhomie between Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has made the former to maintain distance from the Kashmir issue. It is not just the Republicans, but the Democrats have also been criticized for maintaining a similar stand on Kashmir since the beginning of Cold War. Thus, the editorial has analysed the importance of Kamala Harris as the running mate for presidential nominee Joe Biden and anticipates that the voter base consisting of African-American and Indian-Americans which would not only make Biden a tough challenger for Trump but could play a role in the Subcontinent. (“Biden’s Running Mate”, The Nation, 13 August 2020)


""The Government of Pakistan at all regional and international forums has raised awareness on the Kashmir issue and voices against the oppression are reverberating through the world's corridors...During the past one year, the issue has been raised in the UN three times and this shows that the issue is of cardinal importance in the eyes of the world. And their (Kashmiris') fight for independence will InshAllah be successful.""

-  DG-ISPR in a media conference on 13 Aug 2020  (Dawn)

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