UK must be more strident in criticising Pakistan's assault on free speech

ANI | Updated: Jan 16, 2018 11:02 IST

London [United Kingdom], Jan.16 (ANI): There is a rising concern in Britain that its government is inexplicably keeping quiet about Pakistan's assault on free speech.

In an article written for the Guardian, Jon Boone, former writer for the paper on Pakistan and Afghanistan, has categorically said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) should be protesting about the kidnap and torture of social media activists.

He says that their abduction and reported torture by agents of the state has resulted in them avoiding criticising the country's military establishment and militant religious groups backed by the army.

Over the past month or more, a peace activist has been abducted from Lahore, a Marxist professor has been murdered and a kidnapping attempt was made Taha Siddiqui, an outspoken journalist.

Boone says, "Britain has had nothing to say about this growing assault on free speech, even when it involved a journalist who contributes to British media outlets, including this one. But there were no public condemnations. Not even the meekest expression of concern."

While he acknowledges that terrorist-related violence in Pakistan has come down, he feels that at times the UK seems keener to challenge negative international perceptions of Pakistan than the Pakistani government itself.

"While terrorist violence is sharply down, it has been achieved in a way that is unlikely to be sustainable: a campaign of illegal abductions and killings rather than root and branch reform of an incapable police and broken judicial system. The business environment remains unreformed, and the country never far from its next economic crisis," Boone adds.

He questions as to why Britain prefers to believe the endless promises of successive Pakistan Army chiefs about the situation improving, when actually that is far from the truth and may never happen.

Pakistan, he opines is a "deep state" running amok, and therefore, it is imperative that "Britain should not be blind to the problems that remain, or (be) afraid to raise its concerns publicly."

He is also critical of the fact that British diplomats conduct diplomacy with Pakistan Army generals at in their headquarters in Rawalpindi, and believes that this is actually compromising the bilateral relationship, and further undermining the authority of elected civilians in Pakistan.

Pakistan is one of the few countries where the public displeasure of the British high commissioner might have a useful effect and impact, he concludes. (ANI)