What should never change in Islamabad Pakistan

PakistanBetween Islam and modernization

Mass demonstrations in Lahore and Karachi, as well as in Peshawar and other major Pakistani cities. The mood is heated, as can be seen on footage from the Reuters news agency. Despite Corona and the restrictions on freedom of assembly associated with the pandemic, the opposition in Pakistan has been calling for protests against the government for months.

The opposition movement PDM Pakistan Democratic Movement, founded in September last year, calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and calls for new elections. The alliance consists of around a dozen parties and political groups, including the Muslim League, the Pakistani People's Party and the popular movement Awami Tehreek. But nationalist and Islamist organizations have also joined the movement.

At a rally in Gujranwala in October 50,000 people are said to have taken part, in Karachi, according to various estimates, even 100,000. There are no official figures. Semaab Tahir, one of the protesters in Gujranwala:

"Look how people are going here. They are against this government because it has no program at all. The people want a change and the change will come."

Prime Minister Imran Khan took office 2.5 years ago

A political change, that was the election slogan of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who took office around 2.5 years ago. With the active assistance of the military, so the accusation of the Pakistani opposition. Since then everything has worsened, said the leader of the Pakistani People's Party PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of the murdered former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in a speech on the podium, which a reporter from the Reuters news agency observed.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is increasingly criticized (picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com | PPI)

"The change that Imran Khan has promised is this: We have historic inflation, unprecedented poverty and tremendous unemployment in Pakistan today."

The interim results for the Prime Minister's term in office are mixed. The economy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been in a deep crisis for years, which continues under Imran Khan - not only, but also due to the effects of the corona pandemic. The national debt rose to over 100 percent of the gross domestic product last year. At the same time, according to World Bank estimates, the economy shrank by 1.5 percent in 2020 and inflation rose to over ten percent. The Pakistani central bank ensured that the liquidity of companies and the state was maintained by devaluing the rupee against the US dollar.

Only a slight recovery is expected for the economy

For the year 2021, however, the US rating agency Moody's expects a slight recovery. With growth of around 1.5 percent in the current tax year, the economy will remain just below the level before the corona pandemic, according to the latest report.

Widespread corruption in Pakistan has been contributing to the difficult economic situation for years. A year after his inauguration, Imran Khan announced the formation of a high-level anti-corruption commission, including law enforcement and intelligence agencies. He pointed his finger at the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistani Muslim League, who had been dismissed from office for corruption in July 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison at the end of 2018. The so-called Panama Papers had revealed that Nawaz Sharif and his family had apparently made a fortune in the millions abroad and owned numerous luxury properties in London.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was dismissed for corruption (AFP / Aamir Qureshi)

"There are more than ten billion dollars in Pakistani bank accounts outside our country. In the past four years alone, Pakistanis have bought real estate in Dubai worth nine billion dollars. And how much money does our country have to borrow from the International Monetary Fund? Six billion. It Money laundering was going on here on a large scale. And because the members of previous governments were also involved, they did nothing about it. "

Corruption and Terrorist Financing in Pakistan

But Imran Khan's government must also be urged time and again to take stronger action against corruption and the financing of terrorism. Pakistan has been on the so-called gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for years. This international organization against money laundering, based in Paris, reviews countries that are not doing enough against the financing of terrorism. The FATF wants to decide by the end of February whether Pakistan has taken sufficient countermeasures in the meantime. Otherwise there is a risk of inclusion in the so-called black list, which would make it much more difficult for Pakistan to borrow on the international financial markets.

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In order to avoid an even worse rating by the FATF, one of the leaders of the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was arrested earlier this year and sentenced to five years in prison for financing terrorism.

Conflicts with the archenemy India

Among other things, the LeT is said to have been responsible for the series of attacks in Mumbai, India in November 2008. The accusation that Pakistan supports terrorist groups and offers them shelter is particularly loud from neighboring archenemy India. An attack in Kashmir in February 2019 that killed more than 30 Indian security forces put the two nuclear powers on the verge of war.

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Indian warplanes invaded Pakistani airspace to bomb an alleged terrorist camp. They were shot down, one of the pilots captured and only given back to India weeks later. During the escalation of the crisis between the two countries, Imran Khan was determined but also ready to talk. In a televised address he advocated finding a peaceful solution to the conflict:

"I ask the Indian government, can we even allow ourselves to misjudge ourselves with the weapons we both have? Shouldn't we think where this can go if things get out of hand? Because then neither I nor Narandra Modi can do more. "

Demonstrations against India

It sounded very different on the streets, both in Pakistan and India, and on social networks in both countries. At a demonstration in the Pakistani metropolis of Karachi, the participants burned posters with the image of the Indian Prime Minister, as could be seen on footage from the Reuters news agency. Down with India, long live Pakistan, the angry crowd chanted.

"We are ready to destroy India. And we are ready to fend off every conceivable aggression on the Indian side."

A few months later, the next serious crisis in the relationship between the two neighboring countries came when India withdrew its special status from the autonomous region of Kashmir. The Pakistani army threatened to fight to the last drop of blood, while Prime Minister Imran Khan warned again of incalculable risks.

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During a speech to parliament in Islamabad, the prime minister said that he was not ready to threaten nuclear weapons:

"If we fight to the last drop of blood, what kind of war will it be? This will be a war in which there are no winners, only losers. Such a war would affect the whole world. And I'm not ready to go with it The threat of nuclear weapons. We should be prepared for the worst, but is the world ready for the worst? "

Imran Khan against an escalation of the conflict

With his appeasements, Imran Khan opposed the military leadership, which is considered to be the real power center in Pakistan. According to experts, no important decision will be made in Pakistan without the consent of the generals at the headquarters of the armed forces in Rawalpindi. Imran Khan only got into office with their help, it is said again and again at the protest rallies of the opposition movement PDM.

The election observers of the European Union found in their final report that there was no proven electoral fraud, as the Pakistani opposition claims, in the parliamentary elections in summer 2018. However, violence and intimidation of candidates would have impaired a fair election campaign, said the chairman of the EU observer mission, Michael Gahler, in a telephone interview with the ARD studio in Delhi. Gahler sits as a CDU member for the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament.

"I even watched three elections in Pakistan, in 2008, 2013 and 2018. Each time the respective opposition raised allegations of electoral fraud. And I have to say that the 2018 election was less fraudulent in terms of ballot falsification , but it was noticeable that the military establishment exerted more influence on the election campaign than was the case in 2008 and 2013. "

In his estimation, however, Imran Khan won the election not only because of the influence of the military, according to Gahler. The Pakistani people wanted a change in politics and the charismatic former cricket star was a great beacon of hope.

Imran Khan revered as a cricket idol

To this day, Imran Khan is revered by his fans as the best team captain the Pakistani national cricket team has ever had. In 1992 he led his team to victory in the Cricket World Cup. His career began in the 1970s, while studying at Oxford, as captain of the university team. From this time, the 68-year-old, who is married for the third time, has a Playboy image. Although, according to media reports, he always denies having ever drunk alcohol, which would damage his reputation as a devout Muslim.

As prime minister, Imran Khan also tries to strike the balancing act between a modern, western-oriented innovator of the state and a defender of Islam and all Muslims in need.

Most recently in October last year, when French President Emmanuel Macron defended the freedom of the press and the right of French newspapers to publish cartoons, including cartoons by Mohammad. There were demonstrations against France and against Macron in many Pakistani cities. The Pakistani National Assembly at a meeting that was televised passed a call to boycott French products and a call on the government to recall the ambassador from Paris.

Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi, in an emotional speech to MPs, condemned anti-Islamic tendencies in the western world under the guise of freedom of expression. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on Twitter that Macron had hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims by calling on citizens to publish blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.

Blasphemy or blasphemy is severely punished

Blasphemy or blasphemy is considered a serious crime in Pakistan and is punishable by death. Because of the controversial blasphemy law and the increasing violence against Christians and other minorities, the US Commission on Worldwide Religious Freedom Blacklisted Pakistan last year. The Islamic Republic, which was recently re-elected to the United Nation's Human Rights Council, the UN Council on Human Rights, is now considered one of the most dangerous countries for religious minorities, along with North Korea, Myanmar and Eritrea, as well as Saudi Arabia, China and Iran .

The Commission's 2020 annual report found that almost 80 people are currently detained in Pakistan for alleged blasphemy. Half of them were sentenced to life imprisonment or death. Again and again there are lynchings of people of different faiths who were accused of blasphemy.

Islamists protest in Pakistan against the court decision to acquit the Christian Asia Bibi of the accusation of blasphemy. (AFP / Rizwan Tabassum)

In August last year, a US citizen tried for insulting the Prophet was shot dead in the courtroom by a religious fanatic. In September, the United Nations called on the Pakistani government to investigate such cases more intensively and to stop violence on religious grounds. Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at a press conference in Geneva:

"We have expressed concern to the government in Islamabad about this. The Pakistani leadership should immediately condemn violence against religious minorities, as well as the abuse of the blasphemy law to resolve political and personal disputes."

Abuse of blasphemy allegation

An animated cartoon that has now been circulated on the internet explores the role of social media in escalating religious violence. "Swipe" - that's the title of the short film, the focus of which is a little boy who is increasingly obsessed with a fictional mobile phone app, in which a simple swipe - swipe - gives a rating on whether a person is blasphemous should be punished.

If more than 10,000 users give a negative rating for a suspect, that person will be killed. In the end, the boy also condemns his father for alleged blasphemy and has to see his house and his whole family become victims of an angry mob.

Rape of women is rarely punished

When tens of thousands of women took to the streets in Islamabad and other cities in September last year to protest against rape and sexual harassment, Imran Khan advocated better protection for women and tougher punishments for rapists. The trigger was the gang rape of a young mother, while the perpetrators threatened the woman's children with a weapon.

"What kind of Islamic country is it in which a woman is raped by several men in front of her children, and that in the metropolis of Lahore. And the police chief accuses the woman of why she was on the street at all at this time, why she drove alone in the car and took this and not another road. That's a shame. "

Just a few months later, a law was passed that allows rapists to be neutered in particularly dire cases. At the same time, however, Imran Khan suggested a gradation of sexual violence against women, which makes such acts appear less serious in certain cases. Particularly bad offenses should be punished with castration, said Khan in an interview with Pakistani television.

"Just as there are grades of murder, this should also apply to rape. In particularly serious cases or after recurrences, the perpetrators should be castrated so that they cannot do something like that again."

Rape is also rarely prosecuted in Pakistan because rape victims are unable to meet the high standards of evidence and, under certain circumstances, run the risk of being prosecuted for sexual intercourse outside of marriage. According to human rights groups, nearly 1,000 women are victims of so-called honor killings every year for allegedly violating conservative norms of marriage and sexuality.

Pakistan is a traditional country with strong conservative religious structures, which even a modern-looking and appearing Prime Minister Imran Khan cannot easily change.



Editor's note: For editorial reasons, the main image of the article has been replaced and a mistake in the content of the caption has been eliminated.