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Editorial | EU Parliament’s Resolution Against Pakistan Shows Appeasing Extremists Has Consequences

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European Parliament adopted a resolution seeking review of Pakistan’s GSP plus status on the grounds that the country has failed to protect religious freedoms and control mob violence against minorities. 681 members of the EU parliament supported the resolution while only three voted against it.

Apart from the various cases of blasphemy-related violence, the resolution noted that extremist groups in Pakistan held anti-France protests and a resolution was tabled in Pakistan’s National Assembly to debate the expulsion of French ambassador from the country. It further said that the situation in Pakistan “continued to deteriorate in 2020 as the government systematically enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses by non-state actors, with a sharp rise in targeted killings, blasphemy cases, forced conversions, and hate speech against religious minorities including Ahmadis, Shi’a Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs..” The resolution also condemned abduction, forced conversion to Islam, rape and forced marriage targeting women and children belonging to religious minority groups.

The development is worrying on various levels. First, it goes to show that the government’s act of negotiating with a violent extremist group and capitulating to its demands brought a bad name to the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that the world is acknowledging the Islamophobia problem thanks to his efforts to raise awareness about the issue holds no weight. When the PM tries to appease a radical group instead of restoring the writ of the state, it sends out a message that religious fanatics are more powerful than the state.

While debating the matter of French ambassador’s expulsion during the National Assembly session, lawmakers across party lines tried to woo the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)and prove themselves to be better Muslims. It is no surprise that the world looks at us with contempt when elected leaders chose to appease a group that held the state hostage for several days, killed and tortured policemen and incited hatred against minorities. The same group then went on to contest a by-election in Karachi despite being banned by the government.

Moreover, Pakistan must realise that the cases of misuse of blasphemy law and violence against religious minorities that are brushed under the carpet do not go unnoticed abroad. Pakistan’s record on human rights and religious freedom is dismal to say the least, and this fact can no longer be hidden by intimidating journalists into doing ‘positive reporting’. Extremist groups not only pose a threat to the security of Pakistan’s citizens, but the impunity enjoyed by them causes damage to Pakistan’s struggling international reputation. The state must therefore end the policy of tolerance towards these groups and protect the religious minorities of the country.

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Naya Daur