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Canadian PM sends economic valentine to Pakistan prior to India visit seeks to “remove bilateral trade barriers” with countries retaining blasphemy laws


Much ado has been made about Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent trip to India, with much attention paid to his propensity for cultural fashion faux pas and association with a man who has previously attempted to murder an Indian MP. (click here)  

Surprisingly it has received little notice in the Canadian press that Mr Trudeau also very recently laid out a special valentine trade overture to the Pakistani government who has been rather hypocritically lodging human rights complaints against India for their behaviour in Kashmir against Sikhs. (click here) Given Pakistan’s treatment of religious minorities, including Sikhs such a complaint seems entirely disingenuous. (click here)

The Pakistani High Commissioner to Canada’s February press releases (click here)  state the following:

The [Pakistani Commerce] Minister informed the Canadian counterpart that under the WTO, Pakistan is looking for level playing field for export of its goods to Canadian market and issues like, travel advisory for visit to Pakistan and visa restrictions for Pakistani businessmen are hampering bilateral trade. He urged for immediate removal of these irritants in order to enhance bilateral trade volume. 

For his part, Canada’s Minister for International Trade, Mr. Champagne agreed saying that:

Canada would like to increase the trade volume between the two countries and all practical steps would be taken to enhance cooperation in the areas of mutual interest.

Areas of "mutual interest" ostensibly do not seem to included human rights. Also, International Trade Minister Michael Chan from Canada’s largest province Ontario also meet with Commerce Minister Mr. Pervais Malik promising the same removal of trade barriers despite the human rights abuses that continue in Pakistan. (click here)

How can a foreign state demand the removal of travel advisories simply because Pakistan finds them an “irritant” when it is the Canadian governments responsibility to objectively assess various factors that would affect the safety of Canadian citizens travelling to Pakistan? And what has Pakistan actually done to afford them the right to make demands that any country “lift visa restrictions” for anyone travelling from their country?

This desire to remove trade barriers with a country like Pakistan is even more shocking considering that two Canadian provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan, recently had a trade spat where Alberta boycotted British Columbia wine for not following through with a previously signed agreement. (click here)  

On the 12th, 13th, and 14th of February 2018 the Canadian Government  met to discuss removal of trade barriers with Pakistan, while claiming to be concerned about human rights violations in India and with great flourish and pride declared its intentions to expedite the removal what Pakistan deems "irritants" as soon as March 2018. (click here)

It is abundantly clear that Christians and other religious minorities are systemically persecuted in Pakistan and even those who have seemed to have made a go of life there remain at risk should they fall out of favour with their Muslim benefactors who may well be exploiting them for a number of reasons. 

Christians are targeted for little more than drinking common water, such as what happened to Asia Bibi (click here) and youth Sharoon Masih (click here), or as is seen in the most recent blasphemy case that lead to riots in the streets of Lahore this past week, originating over a conflict over cricket. (click here)

By comparison India, even with their unfortunate acquisition of a more moderate version of the blasphemy law which has also lead to violence, has recently admitted in their Parliament that Christians are in fact being persecuted in many states of India. Admitting that persecution is happening is a vital step in remedying the situation, because nothing can be done to address a problem that the leadership is not willing to admit. BPCA commends the Indian government for taking this important step in the right direction. (click here)

However Canadian politicians such Liberal MP Iqbal Khalid met with the Pakistani High Commissioner to Canada who continues to deny that religious minorities are persecuted in Pakistan as she tabled in Parliament other concerns that she had. (click here) (click here) It seems Pakistan has an open floor with the current Canadian government, which according to the Pakistani High Commissioner to Canada's press releases, include the Immigration, Agriculture and International Trade Minister. 

Could it be that despite some of their disconcerting policies under Modi that India is more interested in finding a solution to prevent violent persecution, than Canada ostensibly seems to be interested in being part of a solution? It seems that rather than standing up for basic human rights, the Canadian government has decided to turn a blind eye to these types of behaviors in the name of economic trade.

Unlike their counterparts in in the EU who now call for an end to trade with the regime unless they release beleaguered Asia Bibi who has been incarcerated for over eleven years falsely accused of blasphemy, Canada seems unaware of who she is and why this case matters. They seem to have forgotten the price Shabbaz Bhatti paid for speaking up for her.

BPCA researcher Keri-Lynn Gibbs, herself from Canada, said,

Canadians will have more than the Prime Minister’s fancy dress to be embarrassed about if these trade relationships go unabated, are fostered without scrutiny with no one to take notice. Canada needs to be more prudent and truthful  in trade considerations with Pakistan – taking blood money is not a likable trait for any world leader. How can Prime Minister Trudeau so often say we as a country care about human rights and bow to Pakistan’s demands with neither consideration for prioritizing the safety of Canadian travellers  nor holding the Pakistani government to account for their poor record on human rights?

Why has the Canadian government tolerated Pakistan’s longstanding campaign of denial that persecution against religious minorities occurs in Pakistan? Why should we now cozy up economically to a hotbed of ISIS and Taliban activities where the rule of law is not respected, women are treated like chattel and life is so expendable? Doesn’t Mr Trudeau think the Canadian public cares? 

As a Canadian it is a great sadness to me that it is my country that is putting Pakistan in the position to thumb its nose at the EU's economic penalty: removing favoured trade status unless they release Asia Bibi, a woman who has suffered so long and so much for so little. Doesn't Mr Trudeau understand this context and why Pakistan is in such earnest to press these deals through by March 2018 or does he just not care about this poor country woman who has lost her health and years of her life for little more than getting thirsty on a hot day? Why are we not standing with the EU on this and why are we sabotaging their attempt at helping this innocent woman gain her freedom? 

"Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"Canada's naive choice of realpolitik when trading with Pakistan is sadly mirrored by their British counterparts. It raises my Chagrin that Britain has maintained Pakistan as their largest foreign aid recipient despite exhibited duplicity in their ally status in the war against terror and their failure to use the aid to create a more egalitarian nation.

"The UN, the EU, The US and any human rights groups working in Pakistan all agree that Pakistan is amongst the top five nations for persecution of their minorities. Yet Britain;s Department for International Development DFID continue to fund holistic educational reform.  A program which includes an investment into textbooks that have been proven to demonize and caricature minorities. (click here)

"Canada might ratify better trade with Pakistan in the next few months and economically this may seem a profitable solution. However their choice for profit over peace will undermine their place as an international player in the long-run, as such action is increasingly scrutinised by a more enlightened global community in the social media age. 

It is better to do what is right even if it means having less, than to have a great income at the expense of justice. (Prov. 16:8)

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