Days after turning a blind eye to extremists’ posters in Lahore bypoll campaign, Pakistan government escalates diplomatic tensions with Switzerland.
The Pakistani government has been on the defensive after allowing posters of designated extremist Hafiz Saeed and executed assassin Mumtaz Qadri to be used during the campaign for the Lahore bypoll. But that has not stopped Islamabad from taking on Switzerland for allowing the proscribed Baloch Liberation Army to run a poster campaign on its soil.
In fact, the diplomatic tension, which has been simmering for a while now, reached a new high Friday with the country’s senate suspending the Pakistan-Switzerland friendship group for an indefinite period over the BLA’s ‘Free Balochistan’ campaign.
Drawing his attention to the BLA posters in the country Sunday, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Farukh Amil had written to his Swiss counterpart Valentin Zellweger. “The use of Swiss soil by terrorists and violent secessionists for nefarious designs against Pakistan and its 200 million people is totally unacceptable,” read the letter, to which there was no formal reply.
But not only did the earlier posters stay despite its complaints, days later, new posters showed up in parts of the country as well. There have, as usual, been explicit references to the Indian hand in the issue as well. Political analyst Agha Iqrar Haroon claimed India had spent Rs 7 billion to run an anti-Pakistan campaign in Geneva and that the campaign had originated from Canada.
Even the Pak foreign office said that the “anti-Pakistan group named Baluchistan House (an independent think tank) is receiving funds from India to spread false propaganda against the state in Geneva”.
“I have no evidence (to corroborate) this claim, but I won’t be surprised if that were to be the case, author and columnist Nadeem Farooq Paracha said.
He added that diplomatic ties between Switzerland and Pakistan would certainly not be severed over the issue, but argued that the Islamic nation was well within its rights to protest and complain. “Won’t a European country protest if a group that wants to break it apart is allowed to display posters here in Pakistan,” he asked.
However, other responses have been less measured. Commentator Zaid Hamid tweeted, “It’s time to pack up & eject Swiss business companies from Pakistan. Time to get very harsh. Switzerland supporting dismemberment of Pakistan.”
Yet, a section within the country believes that some of the concerns are exaggerated.
Former Pakistani ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani dismissed arguments that the posters in Geneva amount to “violating the sovereignty”. “How do posters violate sovereignty of a country, I wonder?” he tweeted.