- Strong quake hits Japan, triggering tsunami
- Sniper heaven: Pentagon’s self-guided bullets leave enemies nowhere to hide
- Violent gang taking advantage of immigration crisis, using border as recruiting hub
- Medicaid enrollment continues to soar under Obamacare, administration says
- Michelle Obama to Latinos: ‘We cannot afford to wait on Congress’ for immigration
- White House urges GOP to act ‘urgently’ on $3.7 billion request for illegal immigrants
- Politicians, criminals using ‘right-to-be-forgotten’ law EU courts forced upon Google
- Combat fatigue: elite special forces troops are ‘fraying,’ Gen. Joseph Votel warns
- German foreign minister to meet Kerry to discuss spying claims
- Florida police spokesman tells citizens: ‘Get yourself some firearms’
Embassy Row: Dangerous duty for Pakistan’s ambassador
Question of the Day
Serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States is risky business, as the country’s former envoy noted after hearing about the legal threat against the current ambassador.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman, who has been in Washington for a year, is under police investigation in Pakistan on accusations of violating the country’s blasphemy law, a charge that carries the death penalty.
Pakistan’s supreme court last week ordered a police inquiry into a complaint from a businessman against Ms. Rehman for comments she made in 2010 as a member of the Pakistani parliament. Ms. Rehman had proposed legislation to remove the death penalty for blasphemy convictions after Rimsha Masih, a teenage Christian girl, faced execution for burning pages of the Koran.
Following an international outcry, a court threw out her blasphemy conviction two months ago after a Muslim cleric, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, was accused of framing the girl.
The complaint against Ms. Rehman, a prominent member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, came from a businessman, Muhammad Faheem Ahkter Gill, 31, who claimed he was shocked by Ms. Rehman’s comments in a television interview in 2010. He told Pakistani reporters that he had tried for two years to get a court to hear his complaint.
In that interview, Ms. Rehman talked about her goal of removing the death penalty from Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are the strictest of any Muslim-majority nation. She dropped her efforts after facing resistance from her own party.
Defendants accused of blasphemy often face street mobs who kill them, even if they are acquitted. Many defendants flee Pakistan after they are freed by the courts.
“It seems that ambassador of Pakistan to the United States is becoming a hazardous job,” he said in an email to Embassy Row.
Mr. Haqqani, ambassador from 2008 to 2011, faced treason charges after a Pakistani-American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, claimed he and Mr. Haqqani were involved in a plot to seek U.S. military intervention in Pakistan to prevent a military coup.
Mr. Haqqani strongly denied the allegations but resigned rather than face the vagaries of the Pakistani judicial system. He now teaches international relations at Boston University.
He criticized the supreme court for accepting the petition of blasphemy instead of insisting the complaint be filed in a lower court, from which the case could work itself up the judicial system through appeals.
“These petitions generate a hostile environment without a formal charge or trial and encourage extremists to physically threaten an ambassador viewed as a traitor or blasphemer,” Mr. Haqqani said.
He added his concern that “ideologically motivated judges” are damaging Pakistan’s “image as a modern democracy.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...
- Embassy Row: India strikes back over diplomat's arrest
- Embassy Row: India 'shocked,' 'appalled' by consular officer's arrest
- Embassy Row: Wife of Christian held in Iran feels abandoned by Obama
- Wife of jailed U.S. Christian in Iran calls for White House help
- Senate debate: Is Santa Claus an American citizen?
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Robert N. Tracci
Congress must use its appropriations power to secure the border
- Violent gang MS-13 taking advantage of immigration crisis, using border as recruiting hub
- Pentagon's self-guided bullets leave enemies nowhere to hide
- A 'new Cold War': China's top paper warns of 'slippery slope' towards conflict with U.S.
- Michelle Obama to Latinos: 'We cannot afford to wait on Congress' for immigration
- PRUDEN: 'Dirty Harry' Reids increasing eccentricity
- Florida police spokesman tells citizens: 'Get yourself some firearms'
- Obama calls GOP lawsuit over executive overreach a 'political stunt'
- New York City creates ID card so 500K illegal immigrants can get services
- Armed militia sets up Texas command center to 'fight for national sovereignty'
- Homeland Security adviser tweets America is 'Islamic country'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq
World Cup's sexiest WAGs