April 23rd, 2014
By Tarak Fatah
The letter by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was refreshing in its lucidity and demonstrated clarity, not common in this era of political correctness, where ambiguity passes for diplomatic-speak.
He wrote to a group of exiled Baloch students in Europe:
“We are concerned about reports of forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Pakistan’s Balochistan province … Canada strongly condemns acts of persecution on the basis of ethnicity or religion and shares international concerns about the treatment of Pakistani minorities, including the Baloch.”
Other than a handful of US congressmen, including Brad Sherman (D-California) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), no government official in the West, except Canada, has slammed the criminal actions committed by Pakistan against its own population, while reportedly providing safe haven to international jihadi terrorists such as Ayman Zawahiri and Mullah Omar.
Baird’s letter follows the frank description of Pakistan by his cabinet colleague, Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander, as a “state-sponsor of terrorism”.
Within days of Canada expressing “concern” over extra-judicial killings in Balochistan, an assassination attempt was made on Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s most prominent journalists, who has written about the plight of the Baloch.
On April 18, Mir tweeted: “It’s very painful that (Pakistani) security agencies are involved in extra-judicial killings of political workers.” The following day, gunmen attacked Mir as he drove from Karachi airport to the headquarters of GEO TV.
Six shots were fired, three hitting Mir as his driver dodged bullets and raced the wounded journalist to a hospital, where he is now recovering from his injuries.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but within hours of the attack, Mir’s brother accused the Pakistan army general who heads the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate of being behind the assassination bid, saying the ISI “was eating up Pakistan like termites.”
A spokesman for the Pakistani military denied any responsibility, saying “raising allegations against ISI or the head of ISI without any basis is highly regrettable and misleading.”
Mir is not the first journalist to be targeted in Pakistan.
On March 29, another TV anchor, Raza Rumi, was fired upon. The attack killed his driver and forced Rumi to flee the country.
This is also not the first time the ISI has been accused of attempting to intimidate foreign journalists and even murder newsmen, both in Pakistan and next door in Afghanistan.
In 2011, Syed Saleem Shahzad, an investigative reporter, was found dead some months after he said ISI officers had threatened him.
New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Carlotta Gall, Declan Walsh of the Guardian and Willem Marx of Bloomberg have all been declared persona non-grata by the Pakistan military.
In 2006, I was told in no uncertain terms by a friend in Pakistani civilian intelligence that if I did not stop writing about the war in Balochistan, I had better not come back to Pakistan.
Last Sunday I received this anonymous tweet: “Tarek Fatah if you say something wrong about Prophet (Muhammad), I will kill you.”
The late Richard Holbrooke, US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan said, “We may be fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong country.” He was spot on.
Canada and NATO have spent the last dozen years fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, when the more dangerous enemy was the country next door – Pakistan.
Baird and Alexander may have paid heed to Holbrooke’s words, but is anyone listening in Washington?