Rights violations: Pakistan maintains discreet silence over Syria protest

Published: August 9, 2011
Lebanese and Syrian protesters light candles during a demonstration in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2011 against the Syrian regime. PHOTO: AFP

Lebanese and Syrian protesters light candles during a demonstration in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2011 against the Syrian regime. PHOTO: AFP


As the chorus against the Syrian government grows louder, Pakistan remains silent on the issue of human rights abuses in Syria.

According to Amnesty International, over 1,500 people have been killed since March in the protests against Syrian President Bashar alAssad’s regime. Pressure against Syria appeared to grow over the weekend from Arab states, as the Gulf Cooperation Council asked for an immediate end to bloodshed.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued a written statement on the situation. “What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia. Syria should think wisely before it is too late and issue and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms. Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss.” Soon enough, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain had recalled their ambassadors from Damascus for ‘consultations’.

In April, Pakistan joined China and Russia in voting against a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council condemning the violence in Syria. Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN Zamir Akram was quoted as saying, “My country has always believed that ‘naming and shaming’ is an approach which is counterproductive.”

Three months and over a thousand dead bodies later, no public statement has yet to be made on the situation in Syria. The Foreign Office spokesperson did not respond to a query till the filing of this report.

According to former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Pakistan’s silence is a product of “historical links between the Bhutto and alAssad families”.

President Bashar’s father, the late president Hafez alAssad, was believed to be a close ally of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Murtaza and Shahnawaz Bhutto travelled to Syria in 1979 to seek support for their campaign to save Bhutto and were offered asylum by the elder alAssad. Murtaza spent several years in Syria before returning to Pakistan in 1993. In 1981, a Pakistan International Airlines flight was hijacked and forced to land in Kabul, and then Damascus. The hijacking is widely believed to be the work of the Al Zulfikar Organisation.

Kasuri said that given the high death toll, “the government of Pakistan needs to make its position clear [and say] that it stands with the people of Syria.”

Pakistan’s silence, according to former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad, shows lack of a foreign policy.

“Foreign policy is a reflection of a country’s internal state of affairs. If the state is in disorder, it has no foreign policy. Forget Syria or any other Arab country – Pakistan has enough problems at home and has no time to focus on international issues. No one is going to pay any attention to what Pakistan says because it has no credibility. No country is looking to Pakistan for support.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Pan Mat
    Aug 9, 2011 - 9:22AM

    The factors complicating Pak’s response are the sensible reactions from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. Pakistan is at a disadvantage for not being able to blame everything on Zionist regimes and conspiracy of CIA/Mossad/Raw trying to de-nuke an Islamic Republic of nuclear weapons.

    The confusion and lack of sense of directions amongst Pakistani masses is understandable, it is hard to find ways to wage jihad in this mess to restore glory of Islam. If only we can convince Americans to drone-strike Syria, Pak media can get back to established conspiracy norms which are well accepted by general masses!!!!1


  • Usman ur Rehman Ahmed
    Aug 9, 2011 - 10:40AM

    JazakAllah for getting some time and writing about this unrest. I hope the last quote is pasted as a critique …


  • Rasheed M.
    Aug 9, 2011 - 11:18AM

    We have already abandoned our Uighur Muslim brothers to the brutal crackdown and subjugation of the Beijing. Now, we are giving up on our Syrian Muslim brothers too. Even the Kashmir freedom fighters don’t get our open support, now that Fai fiasco has happened in DC. Where is the independence in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Now, India has more and more control in Afghanistan. We don’t even have a dialogue for strategic and security cooperation with Iran.
    Tajikhistan and Kazakhstan are providing or in the talk of providing Air base rights to Indian air force. If all this is not concern for the long term strategic interest of Pakistan, then what is?


  • Tanvir Ali
    Aug 9, 2011 - 12:28PM

    This time some better foriegn policy compared to its negative role in Bahrain. Pakistan’s foreign affairs know it well that the unrest in Syria is not a genuine uprising but is a foriegn orchestrated by Saudi Arabia, US and Israel. Why should Pakistan ditch an Arab friend like Syria. Saudi Arabia has no lesson to teach as the ban on protests is still on in the Kingdom.


  • Aug 9, 2011 - 2:51PM

    Pakistan was ‘involved’ in the bloodshed in Bahrain. Nothing surprising about the ‘silence’ over Syrian massacre.


  • Khalid Rahim
    Aug 9, 2011 - 2:52PM

    Syria with her close relation to Iran and Hizabollah is a thorn for zionist twin embryo and the
    proteges.There is no doubt that the minority Alewites control every rung of the ladder in the Government and Armed Forces since late Hafez al Assad assumed power. One had hoped Bashar would bring radical changes by giving the majority Sunni their Right but either it never happened or the little trickle just went dry. With the surge that began in Tunis and Cairo gave the zionist the opportunity to create the turmoil.In regards to Al Assad relations with Bhutto family is no secret, but the late President Hafez would have taken a different stance regarding asylum to the highjackers of PK flight 326 in March 1981 had late General
    Zia ul Haq not been in power in Pakistan. For the Syrians he was the zionist stooge who was responsible for the death of Palestinians in September 1970 and the expulsion of PLO from Jordon. Murtaza and Shahnawaz were both used by the regime in Kabul and Islamabad for their vested interest.


  • Chengez K
    Aug 9, 2011 - 2:56PM

    We had abondoned our belief in Ummah when we hanged the only muslim leader who had united the Islamic world in Lahore in 1974 Islamic summit.


  • abrar
    Aug 9, 2011 - 6:42PM

    @Rasheed M.:

    It is heartening to see a comment in support of Uighur ia.people being denied rights under chinese control,also for the syrian people.Pakistans close ties with Beijing goverment should not stop it from showing its concern for fellow muslims in China.The same applies to its ties with Baathist syrian regime.


  • Usman
    Aug 9, 2011 - 6:42PM

    I condemn syrian government’s action against its ctizens. Such movements are always a result of a long tyranny and bad governance. There are only two possibilities either the movement will succeed and Syria will maintain its presence on the global scene as a country and nation OR a long civil war will keep Syria pushing into the darkness and isolation. If Bashar ul Assad thinks that after crushing the movement, peace will return and things would become the sameas before…. he is making a mistake. As someone in US once said , “the world will never be the same again…….”


  • Absar Shah
    Aug 10, 2011 - 9:09AM

    and what will u say about Pakistan’s silence over the atrocities of the Bahrain Govt on its people !!!


  • hell
    Aug 10, 2011 - 9:48AM

    @Rasheed M.:
    how much you speaks ‘muslim brothers’, that much you hates others


  • sharjeel
    Aug 10, 2011 - 7:18PM

    To the author of this article,,
    there are also rights violation in uk but you havent urged the government to speak against it, why only you wish to speak against an arab, muslim country especially as it is an important obstacle in way of israel,,,,,


  • Cautious
    Aug 10, 2011 - 8:28PM

    So what’s new? When was the last time Pakistan made a public comment about any Muslim atrocity — simple answer is NEVER.


  • Rasheed M.
    Aug 13, 2011 - 9:28AM

    No. I only hate the Chinese oppression of my Muslim brothers in Uighuristan.
    As Moses / Musa said … “Let my people go!”.
    In this case, all thinking and caring Pakistanis should say to our Han friends,
    ‘Ask your people to leave peaceful and return the Uighurs their freedom.’
    Otherwise, just as Afghanistan has been the graveyard for three superpowers,
    British, Soviet and the US; it will be add China and India to that list.
    Better to be friends, than to be foes. Small does not mean ineffective.
    The Uighurs are the Vietnamese of Central Asia. They will not be cowed down.
    They are not the Tibetans. So, let my people go. It is a fair and honest thing to do.
    There are others on this thread and others, who have the same sentiments.
    And your presence and brutality in Uighuristan is fueling the dissent.


  • Dallas Ali
    Aug 19, 2011 - 2:55AM

    Funny that Saudi & Bahrain have joined the criticism (well deserve) but they need to look at their own backyard; people living in Glass houses should not be throwing stones.

    I do applaud US stand on Asad, he has got to go.


  • malik
    Aug 20, 2011 - 11:27PM

    Pakistan’s foreign policy has always been consistent: it is ok if Muslims kill other Muslims, by hundreds or thousands. Syria, Bahrain, Libya, Sudan,Iran, Iraq, Egypt…..all perfectly acceptable scenarios.

    Pakistan will interfere only when Muslims are killed by non-muslims. Then you will see all Rage Boys in the street burning flags !


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