Why didn't the Pakistan embassy stand up for Assim Abbasi?

When Abbasi, was wrongfully identified as a crazed, fundamentalist gunman, the Pakistani embassy penalised his family!

Faiza Iqbal November 27, 2014
In 2004, I travelled to Belgium to visit my uncle who was residing and doing business there. I found the people to be very welcoming, the architecture was outstanding and, of course, the world-famous chocolate was delectable. So when news emerged this week of a Pakistani, Assim Abbasi, residing in Belgium being wrongfully identified as a crazed, fundamentalist gunman, when in fact, he was holding a cricket bat, sent out alarm and disbelief. 

Understandably, emotions are running high following the attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels but the fact that the Belgian police and media failed to make the necessary checks meant an innocent man’s glittering future is now in tatters.

However, my shock wasn’t limited to the behaviour of the Belgian authorities but increased tenfold when I came to learn that the Pakistani embassy, which is supposed to be a haven for overseas Pakistanis, actually penalised Mr Abbasi’s family. Assim’s father, Tufail Abbasi, who worked as a stenotypist for the Pakistani embassy in Belgium, was told that his position was no longer tenable as his son had supposedly “shamed” the reputation of Pakistan in Belgium; as if drone strikes, polio endemic, being labelled a failed state and rampant corruption have done wonders for our reputation as Pakistanis abroad! Assim’s father has now been relocated to work at a different embassy which means uprooting his whole family, not to mention the disruption and embarrassment that surrounds this entire fiasco.

I am completely dumbfounded by the decision of the Pakistani embassy in this regard. Most embassies, when faced with the prospect of their citizens being wrongfully accused or mistreated by police authorities in different countries, come to the rescue of these individuals by assisting them with legal counsel. They very rarely accuse the mistreated individual or punish them in such a ferocious manner.

If our own embassy will not be our saviour in testing times, then who will overseas Pakistanis turn to in their time of despair?

In 2013, an Indian diplomat in the United States was arrested and strip-searched which in turn created a massive diplomatic furore and tarnished relations between India and the US. In addition to this, the British embassy based in Islamabad has a whole department dedicated to forced marriages whereby they carry out “rescue” operations of British citizens they believe are about to enter into a forced marriage. Just recently, a British man was arrested in Morocco for illicit activities when the British embassy stepped in, secured his release and eventual return to the UK.

When it was blatantly clear that the Belgian authorities had made a huge mistake, why did no one stand up for Assim and his family?

In such a delicate and confusing time, Assim should have been supported and comforted instead of lambasted for a crime he never committed. What is unbelievable is that our authorities have turned around and blamed one of our own instead of standing firm and approaching the Belgian authorities demanding an explanation. If our own embassy will take such a negative approach to the plight of a Pakistani, then what hope do we have of being treated fairly by other countries? Who will be there for us in our time of need?

Although the Pakistani embassy has said that Mr Abbasi’s time came to a natural end and he had been reinstated elsewhere, this incident will have formed the basis of their decision. I felt such utter heartbreak and disappointment for Assim and his family. It is incidents like these that will isolate our youth from the love they have for their country. The newer generations will feel disillusioned and let down by a country’s representatives who should have put their rights first instead of bowing down to the whims of the foreign assumers.

I, for one, will not be paying a visit to Belgium anytime soon regardless of the appeal of its chocolate or tourist sites because any one who hurts my Pakistani brethren, hurts me irrevocably. It is a shame our foreign institutions don’t feel the same way.
Faiza Iqbal A law graduate from King's College, London Nottingham Law School. Having worked at Mandviwalla & Zafar as an Associate, she now writes freelance articles and is trying to qualify as a barrister in Canada.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


liberal-lubna-fromLahore | 6 years ago | Reply Well dont get me wrong, but you cant teach an old dog new tricks. An incident like this can be seen under a positive light. I mean you go abroad, espcially in countries like Canada and US, and all Pakistanis do their is rant. Rant about how bad Pakistan is. Rant about how bad people in Pakistan are. Constantly rant, whine and complain about any slightest thing linked to Pakistan which is NOT bothering them in any way. They do that because now that they have a foreign stamp, they can praise themselves all they want and act like they are above the average Pakistani who is living in Pakistan, just because they are now the proud protected special citizens of USA/Canada/Belgium etc who can be done no harm whatsoever all because they have managed to get hold of that green card. They say these nasty things all while at the cost of degrading and making fun of Pakistan. And I am just sick and tried of meeting such people who have no right to have such a lousy negative attitude about their country but the truth of the matter is, they still do this just so they can feel better about their miserable lives as 2nd class citizens of foreign countries that they try so hard to pretend and fake to make others believe that they take pride in. These people were not able to have that priviledged life that so many proud Pakistanis have and out of hatred, insecurity, jelaousy they constantly lash out at Pakistan to feel better about their pathetic lives abroad. Because, if Pakistan couldnt own them, surely they must try to act like they feel owned in a foreign country irregardless of the miserable lifestyle it has to offer to them otherwise where else can they go? I mean their own country kicked them out. Typical rants include about safety concerns in Pakistan and theft and robbery and when curious about how it affects them now that they are sitting in their bullet proof centrally heated homes in USA, one asks them " soo when was the last time you even been to Pakistan" and the response is " 20 years ago" and my response to that is WOW! I can totally understand why you are still venting out your frustration on a country that still manages to give you nightmares on a daily basis. Other typical rants include complaining about PIA, and when get asked when was the last time they travelled in PIA " oh r u kidding me? I never travel with that dangerous airline" and my reaction to that is " right auntie, why the $#!* do u find the need to complain about an airlien you have NEVER travelled with?!" Flight issues with Etihad, Emirates or anyother airline for that matter is perfectyl reasonable because being in the civilized arilines, you must also put on that fake smile and act like everythings eventually going to be ok. Same issues happen with PIA, and it becomes a scene from the jungle book because even if things are meant to be okay, we are not going to let them be okay because we have the fortunuate pleasure of travelling with our home country's airline. I also know of foreign unties who rant against Pakistani clothes/fashion and complain about how it's slowly becoming against their "culture". To fix this issue, they tend to come up with their own ahem ahem unique ( in other words, the ^*$! is that?!) fashion sense. My goodness, the conversations of foreign based Pakistanis literally hurt my brain. Plus that fake accent is just the cherry on the top. The truth is, its not that Pakistani fashion is evolving to drastic natures so much that its becoming against their "culture" its simply the hate such people have towards their motherland and in order to avoid seeming to have "double standards" they choose to distance themselves from Pakistani fashion all together. Because how can they hate a country soo much and then also choose to run wild for the beautiful clothes it makes. Nah, that's double standards and how smart of such foreign based Pakiatanis to avoid that. I also heard of the new immigrants talk to each other in that worked accent about " I cant believe I lived 10 years in Pakistan man" as if moving abroad and settling there is just a thing waiting to happen for everyone, right. And the list goes on and on. So the point I am trying to make here is, I LOVE LAHORE with all it's craziness, warmth, madness and heartfulness. A joyful experience I've been blessed to live every single day I have lived in Lahore. Something these hate mongers never got to experience because of their stone cold hearts and pessimistic approach towards life. And unlike other cowards and whiners, I choose to 'travel only' but never 'move aboard' because I want to stay in my beloved country and own the right of complaining about the problems that I actually face while living here unlike those who are living abroad with all comforts of life yet not a single day goes by where they dont have to negatively talk mean about Pakistan and its problems that they are not experience and also like the story of this family residing in belgium thinking they had the luxury to talk about bad about Pakistan like that for no reason. So who knows, maybe its a positive thing that they are going through this trial and they now actually have a "real" issue to complain about Pakistan for a change even though it's still the fault of the government of Belgium but somehow blame as has to be put on Pakistan. Please go and apply for financial aid and refuge or whatever those other priviledges are that you asylum seekers so much like to take pride in about foreign countries. Why turn to Pakistan now? Oh I get it because if this had happened to you in Pakistan, you would have immediately ran to a foreign country seeking asylum because of the secruity threats but you cant use that card anymore because Belgium has shown its true colors and you people have so much hate for your own homeland that you choose not to return despite the problems you have abroad even though you are always welcome here with open arms. And precisely because of this negative attitude, you never expected anything from that country in the first place so I dont get it, why drag Pakistan into this? Your rants should be against Belgium , not Pakistan.
Tellerr | 6 years ago | Reply pakistani embassies arent the best unfortunately. and this is a well written piece. very sorry to hear mr asim's plight. and hopoe there is some form of apology that he is offered . although knowing our track record its hoping against hope.
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