Should war crimes not be investigated?

  • Does the PM know what is going on?


The Prime Minister’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly was good as speeches by our leaders go. It addressed some important issues, was well laid out, and delivered with conviction. But it contained several inconsistencies that took one’s breath away. Such as the rather plaintive “But one country cannot do anything” (meaning ‘everything’), “this has to be a combined effort of the world”– when speaking about climate change and the PTI’s efforts to mitigate its effects, and how the PTI government had planted billions of trees in KP.

The PM must remember that countries are judged by their overall performance. The world does not care about what the latest government has achieved. And really, what has this government achieved, other than killing the economy and strangling the media?

So, suddenly the authorities in Pakistan woke up to the fact that the country must live up to the image of having done something. There followed a commotion to clean up Karachi– which it has needed for the past many years, and the sudden clampdown on plastic bags– which was also long overdue.

The Mall in Lahore, once a peaceful road, is now best avoided as it is so often the scene of protests and riots. The latest protest was staged by those involved in the manufacture of plastic bags, furious because the ban on the use of plastic bags is to lead to the loss of a million jobs in eight thousand factories in Punjab alone.

While the move to end the use of non-degradable bags is laudable, the arbitrary way it has been done– entirely in keeping with many of this government’s moves– is not laudable at all. Like other arbitrary orders, this one too is likely to be rescinded at some stage, or else ignored. Like the M-tag for motorways, like the sudden clampdown on not using a seatbelt, like the directives in schools and universities. A similar attempt to end the use of plastic bags by the previous government never made it. But in the meantime, this time around, a million people in Punjab are to lose their jobs. Where is the planning that would provide them with alternatives?

Probably the truest part of the PM’s speech was: “There are radical fringes in every society, but the basis of ALL religion is compassion and justice.” Yes, that is true. But this was followed by “I hear such strange things about Islam– that it is against women and minorities.”

Yes, the world has a responsibility towards Kashmir. It must urge India to stop the atrocities there. It is good the PM stressed that. The alternative is, as the AFP reports, a nuclear war which could kill a 100 million

The PM is right, Islam is not against women and minorities. So how then do we explain the persecution of Hazaras, Ahmadis and Shias by mainstream Muslims in this country who almost always get away with it, and the ‘honour’ killings of women? Who is allowing this to happen? Are those ‘“some persons in the West who provoked Muslims” mentioned in the speech, to blame? Are those “some persons” also responsible for the incarceration of Aasia Bibi, for the forced conversions, and for the burning alive in an industrial kiln of Shama and her husband Shahzad Masih? Are they responsible for the young Christian men who have been disappearing from Youhanabad? Because last year their families alleged that 24 young men were picked up from Youhanabad by the police.

Who is responsible for the Ahmadis, Hazaras and Shias who are harassed in this country while the rest flee elsewhere for their lives when they can?

Although compassion is undoubtedly there in Islam, in all religions, where is it in this country and why are there no consequences for most of the people who commit these crimes?

Why were there no consequences for Captain Safdar, for example, when he made a speech in the National Assembly in 2017 saying that Ahmadis should not be recruited into the Army because of their beliefs, and nor should the Physics Department of Quaid e Azam University be named after Abdus Salam for the same reason? No political party or member of Parliament condemned Safdar for that speech at the time.

According to an AFP report a year ago, UN-mandated investigators said they had “reasonable grounds to believe that parties to the armed conflict in Yemen have committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law.” Many of these violations may amount to “war crimes”, the report said, pointing to widespread arbitrary detention, rape, torture and the recruitment of children as young as eight to take part in hostilities.”

Yet, last month, Pakistan said that the UN should not be investigating human rights violations in Yemen. Could that possibly be because its allies may have committed war crimes? Is Pakistan holding back because it cannot do without Saudi aid?

Why is the government not protesting the persecution of Uighur Muslims in China? Is it because of the advantages accruing from CPEC?

All races and people commit such crimes, yes, but that fact does not make ours any more palatable.

Yes, the world has a responsibility towards Kashmir. It must urge India to stop the atrocities there. It is good the PM stressed that. The alternative is, as the AFP reports, a nuclear war which could kill a 100 million.

Still, at the end of the day Imran Khan’s speech leaves you wondering if our Prime Minister is indeed blissfully unaware of the problems that beset Pakistan. Does he even think it is his boot that spurs the horse?