Pakistan Promises to Use U.N. Human Rights Council Post to Fight ‘Islamophobia’

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses during the inauguration ceremony of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Pakistan's prime minister has inaugurated a visa-free initiative that allows Sikh pilgrims from India to visit one of their holiest shrines. Khan opened the border corridor on Saturday as …
AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, an Islamist who has called for a global law banning blasphemy, celebrated his nation’s re-election to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday by vowing to use the agency to fight “Islamophobia.”

Pakistan is an Islamist state where blasphemy against Islam generally is a crime and specific blasphemous statements, like insults to Muhammad, are punishable by death. It is one of only three states in the world to proscribe capital punishment for insulting Muhammad, alongside Iran and Mauritania. While the Pakistani state has never executed anyone on death row for blasphemy, police often do little to protect indicted suspects from mob violence and the lynching of individuals rumored to have committed blasphemy is common.

Rather than attempt to change norms in his country that result in routine killings of religious minorities, Khan has attempted to change global norms to look more like Pakistan’s, using his platform at the U.N. General Assembly to urge the world to adopt blasphemy laws.

In statements on Twitter following Pakistan’s successful campaign to remain on the Human Rights Council, Khan vowed Pakistan would be a bold voice against “Islamophobia” on the Council.

“I am pleased with Pakistan’s re-election to the UN Human Rights Council … we stand resolute against Islamophobia & in support of mutual respect,” he wrote. “Pak[istan] will continue to expose human rights violations committed with impunity by the Indian occupation forces in [Kashmir].”

Pakistan continues embroiled in a decades-long territorial dispute with India in Kashmir, which straddles the two nations’ borders. Kashmir is a majority-Muslim region that India claims as part of the country but Pakistan supports being separate from the country due to its demographics. Khan regularly calls the India government “Nazis.”

Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi echoed Khan’s remarks following the vote, stating that Islamabad would prioritize “the rise of Islamophobia” and “Muslim causes” at the Human Rights Council, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Of the four priorities he listed for Pakistan at the Human Rights Council, the newspaper relayed, “human rights” came last.

Pakistan received more votes than any other candidate in the Asia-Pacific region to stay on the Council, including China, which received fewer votes than any other candidate on the ballot except Saudi Arabia. As the Council’s Asia-Pacific region had four open seats and five candidates, Saudi Arabia did not make it onto the assembly. Nepal and Uzbekistan joined China and Pakistan.

China’s election to the panel prompted particularly stern reprimand from global human rights activists and the world’s free countries given its expansive record of human rights atrocities. Its most significant single human rights violation is the maintaining of concentration camps in the west of the country – on its border with Pakistan – specifically to house Muslim Turkic minority people. The survivors, most belonging to China’s Uyghur ethnic group, have testified to Communist Party officials forcing them to eat pork and renounce Islam at the camps, as well as enslaving, raping, torturing, and otherwise abusing them.

Despite branding himself a champion against Islamophobia, Imran Khan has not criticized neighboring China for its torture of as many as 3 million Muslims. He has instead applauded China’s dictator, Xi Jinping, for purging thousands of Communist Party members with arrests for alleged “corruption.”

The war against alleged Islamophobia – but not the genocide of Muslims in a neighboring country – featured prominently in Khan’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month. Khan called for the U.N. to establish an international day against Islamophobia, an idea first introduced by Islamist President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and then demanded global laws against criticism of Islam.

“Muslims continue to be targeted with impunity in many countries … incidents in Europe, including republication of blasphemous sketches by Charlie Hebdo, are recent examples,” Khan told the U.N. in September. Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine that lost most of its top staff in a jihadist massacre in 2015.

“We stress that willful provocations and incitement to hate and violence must be universally outlawed,” Khan asserted.

His U.N. address in 2019 similarly defended radical Islam, paraphrasing another famous Erdogan declaration: “There is no radical Islam. There is only one Islam.”

“Islamophobia is dividing the world. Muslim women have been asked to take off their hijab in other countries. A woman can take off her clothes in other countries but cannot put on Hijab,” he complained then.

Shortly after being elected as prime minister, Khan announced in 2018 that he would “spearhead a campaign for an international declaration against the defamation of religions.”

In June, Khan publicly lamented the killing of al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, calling him a “martyr” and the U.S. mission to eliminate him “embarrassing” for Pakistan. Bin Laden, responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, died in a U.S. raid of his compound in the sleepy Pakistani suburb of Abbottabad in 2011.

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