Islamabad, 11th February 2022, Parliamentary Leader of the PPP in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said, “There has been a dangerous uptick in Islamophobia in India, which has manifested not just in dangerous rhetoric but has impacted the diminishing freedoms of Indian Muslim citizens. The Hijab-ban in educational institutions in the state of Karnataka is obviously highly condemnable and goes against all International Human Rights norms and the ability of citizens to exercise freedom of religion. Nowhere in the world should a woman be forced to take off her hijab, but equally no woman should be forced to put one on.”
She continued, “Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organisation has condemned this ban in India and all other international institutions should follow suit. Despite numerous protests and condemnation from all over the world from rights activists, vigilante Hindutva groups roam the public frontlines while Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court has gone on to state that no religious garments should be worn on campuses until the Court has reached a verdict on this issue. This is unacceptable and we denounce India’s growing Islamophobia. A society that supports freedom of religious expression does not coerce women or minorities to conform to any structures giving up their peaceful right to religion. We fight for our minorities’ rights here in Pakistan as well, and will continue to speak out against the hyper-nationalist stoking of culture wars, the identity clashes, the silencing of dissent that goes with such right wing authoritarian regimes such as Modi’s .”
Speaking on the recent statements made by the Prime Minister about the United States she said, “The Foreign Ministry has said that Pakistan will try to maintain a balanced and positive relationship with the US and that the PM’s trip to Russia should not be seen as a challenge to the United States or as a relationship being made at Washington’s expense. We live in a tough neighborhood and we are agreed that strategic exclusion is not the best roadmap for a country with our level of exposure to multilateral institutions. While we all know that the so-called rules-based order uses those rules only for a small club of countries, it has never been our articulated foreign policy position to whine at any great power from the highest office. It is however the Prime Minister who has now used his office to say that “America always uses Pakistan.” Any statement that a Prime Minister makes is considered a policy statement, so none of us now understand what message is being given where. There have been many speeches made about how we got used in Afghanistan by the US, how we readily gave our bases on rent in the past. But beyond playing to the nationalist gallery what is your strategic plan? There is no choice to be made between the China and Russia group of Asian powers; that is neither required by Beijing or by anyone else, as China is a long term all-weather friendship we can rely on, but that does not mean that we start picking fights across the world, especially with multilateral institutions staring you down. It’s very easy to make strong anti-US speeches, very often there is reason to as well, but foreign policy is not made in anger or a fit of pique. It can’t be based on election rallies or populist jalsa talk. Anyone can make such a statement and whip up nationalist fervor to become an overnight hero. Is that what the PM is seeking now? With his alliance partners all shaky, like today’s alliance walkout in the Senate, should Pakistan’s national interests be put to test for the sake of their diminishing popularity? Given the need to avoid binaries, and to centre policy on geoeconomics which their own national security document demands, what is this election speech? In reality, it reflects total confusion in Pakistan’s articulated foreign policy. “
She said, “Nowhere in the world do leaders make such definitive and controversial statements at this level unless they are ready to launch a battle. Especially when their own Minister of Foreign Affairs has established the opposite narrative and stated that Pakistan will not be choosing any one camp, whether it’s the US, China or Russia. Pakistan has a historical friendship with China and we have never been expected or pressurised into cutting ties with any country due to that relationship.”
“There needs to be strategic clarity, there needs to be a straight policy statement on which way we are going on the Floor of this House. On the one hand, you are taking full and unprecedented dictation from an IMF you have not managed to show Pakistan’s side of the economic story, but on the other, you are brandishing your fist? What is this amateur hour?” she concluded.