Pakistan continues intimidation, harassment of its citizens abroad


Islamabad, Pakistan: Pakistan seems to be emulating its all-weather ally China in intimidating its citizens abroad, particularly dissidents and human rights activists.

Islamabad, Pakistan: The apprehension has been made by many that Pakistan has started following his all season ally China in oppressing the unsatisfied and the human rights activists.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service in the last week of June charged a British Pak national Mohamed Gohir Khan with conspiracy to murder Ahmad Waqas Goraya, a Netherlands-based Pak national and a social media activist critical of the Pak establishment, who is currently in exile.
The accused individual has reportedly admitted to being a contract killer who was hired by an individual in Pakistan to target Goraya.

In the latest incident, the Chairperson, Voice of Karachi, and former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Nadeem Nusrat, survived a life attempt in Houston Texas, USA after unidentified assailants fired multiple shots at his car on July 11.

MQM London and Canada Chapters staged protests (in London on July 11 and in Toronto on July 12) against the Pakistan government and establishment for threatening MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

The protesters raised slogans against Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech in the National Assembly on June 30 in which he “threatened to assassinate” Altaf Hussain through a drone attack.

Separately, MQM-USA delegation also called on US State Department officials on July 13 and expressed concerns over the Pakistan PM’s speech as well as similar news on a private YouTube channel that reported that Pak ISI had set up a team to complete this mission.

Last year, two noted Pakistan dissidents Karima Baloch and Sajid Hussain Baloch were found dead in mysterious circumstances. Karima Baloch, a dissident Pakistani human rights activist living in exile in Canada, was found dead in Toronto in December 2020.

She had been advocating for the rights of the people of Balochistan and raising the ongoing issue of enforced disappearances. Her husband Hammal Haider had said that foul play could not be ruled out in her death.

In April 2020, Sajid Hussain Baloch, a journalist who wrote about human rights violations in Balochistan, was also found dead in a river in Sweden. He had sought asylum in Sweden after threats to his life in Pakistan.

In another development, the Pakistani Telecommunication Authority (PTA) tried to coerce a group of Pak Ahmadiyya’s in the US in January this year to close their website by threatening them with imprisonment under Pakistan’s blasphemy law and targeting their relatives back home by charging them with blasphemy, punishable by death.

American attorney Brett Williamson, who is representing termed PTA’s action as “a malicious attempt to chill free speech and expression.”

In a similar vein, House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks stated on January 14 that it is a matter of deep concern to see Pakistan using attempts to apply its controversial cybercrime laws meant to stifle expression within Pakistan, to repress Americans’ freedom of speech and worship well outside of Pakistan’s own borders.

Iqbal Zafar, a Pakistan national residing in Spain, tried to immolate himself on March 9 this year in front of the Pak consulate in Barcelona protesting his family’s harassment by Pak authorities back home.

Similarly, Rana Abid Hussain, President of the Pakistan-Japan Business Council, has alleged harassment by Pak Embassy in Japan, including implicating him in a fake case of forging shipping documents.

Extra-territorial repression is being used by the Pakistani authorities to silence dissent abroad. Technology, the internet, and social media networks appear to have made it easier for them to oppress from a distance.

A Freedom House report in February this year mentions that 31 states had physically attacked their citizens living in other countries since 2014. Millions have been intimidated by harassment, digital surveillance and smear campaigns. Common tactics include withholding travel documents, denying consular services and threatening relatives back home.

Against this backdrop, exiled Pakistanis remain apprehensive and under threat in their respective locations. The host countries must take the responsibility of protecting the rights of citizens from other nations to prevent these rogue states from harassing their diaspora.

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