Sad situation in Pakistan
In a candid admission at a press meet in London, former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has said that Kashmir should be given the status of an independent nation. "I say Pakistan doesn't want Kashmir. Don't give it to India either. Let Kashmir be independent. At least humanity will be alive. Let people not die. Pakistan doesn't want Kashmir. It can't even manage its four provinces. The big thing is insaaniyat (humanity). People who are dying there, it is painful. Any death, be it from any community, is painful," Afridi said in a video uploaded on the social media. Afridi hails from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, from where cricket legend and incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan hails. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was known as North West Frontier Province (NWFP) till 2010 and has been the hotbed of Taliban activities. Going by the terror outfits which are active in the province and the way they have been able to disturb peace and prosperity in the country, Afridi's inference that Pakistan is not able to manage the four provinces it has is not an overstatement, but it is also not the official line either, which Afridi as a national cricketer is expected to follow. For his remarks on giving independence to Kashmir, comments on social media reminded him how Pakistan sponsored terrorism is responsible for the death of innocent people in Kashmir.
Controversies aside, Afridi's frank observation that Pakistan does not want Kashmir as it finds it difficult to manage its own provinces throws light on how sad the situation is inside Pakistan. India's disappointment with Pakistan is not limited to its legitimate or illegitimate intentions and activities in Kashmir, which is certainly a sore point in the relations between the two countries. India's disappointment with Pakistan becomes more acute by the gloom and despondency that pervades the beautiful mountain life in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or elsewhere in the country which is blessed with an abundance of nature's best — from deserts to seaside and from plains to the world's highest mountain peaks.
A recent case of Asia Bibi, the 53-year old Christian farmworker who was recently acquitted by the country's Supreme Court of blasphemy, highlights how the social environment has become so toxic that a brawl between two neighbours in one of the poorest settlements became a national issue with the entire country baying for her blood. Asia Bibi has already spent eight years in jail and when the Supreme Court acquitted her on the grounds of insufficient evidence, the entire nation erupted in protests, demanding that she should not be allowed to leave the country amid reports that her husband asked US, UK, Canada and Italy for a political asylum to the family.
Asia Bibi's case has rattled the conscience of the civilised world. In Britain, the issue has raised an animated debate after it was found that the Foreign Office urged the Home Office not to grant Asia Bibi political asylum in the UK. The British government took the decision out of fear for the safety of UK consular staff in Pakistan. Tom Tugendhat, the foreign affairs select committee chair, asked the Foreign Office permanent secretary, Sir Simon McDonald, whether the issue "does not raise the question that either staff should be withdrawn or security increased or otherwise UK policy is effectively dictated to by a mob?". McDonald said Britain is trying to find a third country to take Asia Bibi, saying this would allow UK policy objectives to be achieved without any risk to its staff. Tugendhat replied that the episode represents "one of the clearest examples of free conscience being challenged today". A senior Labour MP, Mike Gapes, said, "Given the clear inability of this new Pakistani government of Imran Khan to stop these mobs from intimidating and killing Christians in Pakistan, is it not time to reassess our relations with Pakistan? There are big concerns if religious minorities in Pakistan are not safe."
Meanwhile, the Pakistan foreign office confirmed on Tuesday that it has been holding talks with the Canadian foreign ministry over granting asylum to Asia Bibi. In a sign that Pakistanis settled abroad do not endorse the treatment meted out to Asia Bibi in her country, prominent British Muslims, including three imams, have written a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking him to make a clear and proactive statement that Britain would welcome a request for sanctuary. The letter, also signed by MPs from across the political divide, says, "We are confident that action to ensure Asia Bibi and her family are safe would be very widely welcomed by most people in Britain, across every faith in our society." "If there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged," the letter says.