Pakistan has been witnessing a rapid breakdown of its internal administrative machinery, with its police and security forces unable to control the country-wide violence engineered by the supporters of the radical Islamist party, the Tehreek -e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that has been demanding the ouster of the French Ambassador and halting of trade relations with France. While the spotlight is on the grim domestic security situation with the government being held hostage by the TLP, the condition of its economy and its diplomatic standing is no better.
Diplomatic ties between France and Pakistan are probably at an all-time low, with Marc Barety, the French Ambassador in Islamabad faced with serious security threats following a demand by the radical Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan to expel the Ambassador. The Islamist party has refused to retreat on the ultimatum it issued to the Pakistan government, arguing that France had insulted the Prophet and thereby committed blasphemy, a sin that cannot be forgiven. The Tehreek has placed two other demands before the Pakistan government, viz. severing of diplomatic ties with France and boycotting French products.
Chinese President Xi Jinping displayed his expansionist ambitions within a year of taking over as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) when he launched the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that traverses through Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting dozens of countries. The first country that partnered with China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was Pakistan, when the US$ 62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), comprising of a wide range of infrastructure projects, was signed with much fanfare in 2015. Due to its expanse, the CPEC, often referred in Pakistan as the flagship project of the BRI, provides the observer with a ringside view of the actual objectives and expectations of Xi Jinping from his dream initiative.
Multiple French flags and effigies of President Emmanuel Macron have been burnt all over Pakistan in the last couple of days as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government encouraged political parties, radical Islamic groups, lawyers and students’ associations to come out to the streets in thousands against the perceived Islamophobia in France.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, held a virtual plenary session from October 21 to 23. During this session, the various countries on the FATF watchlist, classified on the organization’s “blacklist” and “gray list”, were reviewed. Currently, two countries, North Korea and Iran, are on the “black list” and 16 countries, including Pakistan, on the “gray list” known as heightened surveillance.
On September 2, the trial of the January 2015 terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo office and the Hyper Cacher of Porte de Bagnolet in Paris commenced at the Paris Criminal Court. The same day, the Charlie Hebdo magazine re-printed the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad that had made those who worked in the magazine target of lslamist terrorists. When questioned during his visit to Lebanon, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not intervene against the reprint of these cartoons, as the press in France enjoys freedom of expression and even the freedom to blaspheme. While Mr. Macron’s statement was well received in France and in most countries around the world, it sparked strong opposition in some countries in the Muslim world.
Tucked away in a small by-lane in Changklan Road in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai is a nondescript restaurant called ‘Al Hussein’ that sells the typical Indian fare of naan bread and curry. The restaurant generally does brisk business, being located at the Anusarn Night Market with many hotels in its vicinity. The owner of the restaurant is one Baqar Shah, a Pakistani national. Married to a Thai woman for nearly 12 years, Shah is known to have good connections in the local government, immigration, customs and airlines. To an ordinary visitor, all looks normal when you visit the restaurant. However, not many, till recently, knew of Baqar Shah’s links with a fake passport racket, money laundering or the Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).