Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Pakistan

Newsline: Four Filipinas sue Pakistani diplomat employers in Switzerland for slavery

On the morning of her court hearing, Virginia woke up with cold clammy hands and feet, gasping for air. She was having another panic attack. “Never in my life did I imagine that I would find myself in a courtroom facing lawyers in a foreign country,” the 46-year-old Filipina told Al Jazeera. Virginia filed a case against her diplomat employers at the Pakistan Mission in Geneva, Switzerland, alleging she had been unpaid for more than 20 years. The contract, which she signed in the Philippines in 1999, indicated a monthly salary of 1,200 Swiss francs ($1,329) for a 40-hour week, along with board and lodging as well as health insurance. Virginia, then a 22-year-old mother of two, found out after arriving in Geneva that she was expected to work for the Pakistan Mission three times a week without a salary. It would be up to her to find other jobs to have enough money to live on. The sponsorship of her visa demanded her compliance and her silence. Virginia and three other Filipina domestic workers are suing the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations in Switzerland, claiming compensation for unpaid wages and other damages. Evidence and testimony gathered from 2021 supported the allegations of violations of Swiss labour law, threats, coercion, exploitation and human trafficking. The Swiss Mission, which oversees issuing visa permits to domestic workers in diplomatic households and monitors compliance with employee contracts, confirmed that the case was currently being investigated. “Switzerland does not tolerate any abuse of the working conditions of private household employees in the diplomatic context,” said Paola Ceresetti, spokesperson for the Swiss Mission. In an email, the Pakistani Mission in Geneva told Al Jazeera they do not comment on cases pending resolution, but said: “The Mission takes its obligations under the applicable international law and local regulations very seriously.” (https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2023/5/24/four-filipinas-sue-diplomat-employers-in-switzerland-for-slavery) The Swiss Mission has suspended issuing visas for domestic workers employed under the Pakistan Mission until the dispute is settled.

Newsline: Sweden shuts down embassy in Pakistan

Sweden has announced closing its embassy in Pakistan indefinitely due to the prevailing “security situation” in the crisis-hit country’s capital. The embassy did not elaborate on the nature of the threat, but Pakistan’s political situation is getting worse amid growing tension between the government and the Supreme Court. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/sweden-shuts-down-embassy-in-pakistan-indefinitely-here-s-why/) Due to the current security situation in Islamabad, the Embassy of Sweden is closed to visitors. The Migration Section is not, at the moment, able to handle requests of any kind, a notice on the embassy’s website reads.

Newsline: Pakistan’s embassy in Abu Dhabi confirms that former president died on Sunday

Pakistani former President Pervez Musharraf died on Sunday following a prolonged illness at a hospital in Dubai, after years in self-imposed exile. “I can confirm that he passed away this morning,” Shazia Siraj, spokesperson for Pakistan’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai, told Reuters. (https://news.yahoo.com/pakistan-former-president-pervez-musharraf-061451098.html) Pakistan’s military and the country’s mission in the United Arab Emirates announced the death of the former army chief, 79, who was pushed from power in 2008. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Arif Alvi and the chiefs of Pakistan’s army, navy and air force each expressed condolences on his death. A special flight will be made to Dubai on Monday to bring Musharraf’s body back to Pakistan for burial, local TV channel Geo News reported.

Newsline: India invites Pakistan’s top diplomat to meet in May

India has invited Pakistan’s foreign minister to a meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) that it is hosting in May, Indian media reported on Wednesday. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/india-invites-pakistans-foreign-minister-may-meeting-media-reports-2023-01-25/) The invitation came days after Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called for talks with India over all outstanding issues, including the disputed Kashmir region. Just a month ago, there were street protests in India over comments Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of United Nations Security Council meeting. India called Zardari’s comments “uncivilised”. Foreign ministry spokespersons for the two countries did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on the media reports that Zardari had been invited to the SCO foreign ministers meeting being hosted in Goa. The SCO comprises China, India, Russia, Pakistan and four Central Asian states.

Newsline: Pakistan summons Iran ambassador over cross-border attack

The Foreign Office summoned the Iranian ambassador to lodge the formal protest over an attack on the Pakistani security forces from across the border in Balochistan in a rare move, suggesting friction between the two countries. The Foreign Office did not issue any official statement on the development but sources confirmed to The Express Tribune that the envoy was summoned to express “Pakistan’s grave concern over the terrorist attack from inside the Iranian territory in which four Pakistani security personnel embraced martyrdom.” The ambassador was conveyed Pakistan’s expectation that the government of Iran would swiftly bring the perpetrators of the terrorist attack to justice and to prevent recurrence of such incidents, according to a source. “Pakistan remains committed to work with Iran in combatting the common threat posed by the menace of terrorism,” the source maintained. (https://tribune.com.pk/story/2396794/iran-ambassador-summoned-over-cross-border-attack) According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement, four security personnel died in Chukab Sector of the Pakistan-Iran border. It is rare that Pakistan publically protested with Iran as usually it treads carefully despite incidents in the past. But the summoning of the Iranian ambassador coupled with a categorical statement by the Army suggested that Pakistan was running out of patience with the neighbouring country.

Newsline: UAE extends visa ban on Pakistan

In what comes as another embarrassment for Pakistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), where a large number of Pakistanis migrate for work opportunities, has now extended an existing travel ban to 24 cities of Pakistan. The visa ban was earlier on 22 cities, and it has now been increased to 24, East Coast Daily reported. The UAE government had to resort to this action in order to curb the menace of begging on the streets of UAE. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/uae-extends-visa-ban-on-pakistan-embarrassed-pakistan-says-no-visa-ban-in-place/) It was noted that a large number of migrants from these Pakistani cities, who visit the UAE for work, ultimately end up begging on the streets when they fail to find employment. This increases the workload of the UAE administration, as begging is a crime in Dubai and the people are strictly ordered to not entertain beggars. Most of the migrant workers from Pakistan are deceived by agents who send them to UAE on a visit visa, while telling them that they were being sent on a work visa.

Newsline: Indian bids for Pakistani Embassy building in US

An Indian is one of the bidders vying for a building that once housed the defence section of Pakistan’s embassy in Washington DC. The Indian realtor placed a bid of about $5 million, as per a report in the Pakistani news outlet The Dawn. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/indian-bids-for-dilapidated-pakistani-embassy-building-in-us-reports/ar-AA15HRe2) Pakistani embassy officials earlier noted that one of Pakistan’s three diplomatic properties in Washington, which is located on R Street NW, will be sold. The said building housed the embassy’s defence section from the 1950s to the early 2000s. However, neither the new nor old embassies were being sold, the Pakistani officials noted.

Newsline: After US, UK, Saudi and Australian embassies issue security alert in Pakistan’s Islamabad

After the United States and the United Kingdom, embassies of Saudi Arabia and Australia on Monday issued advisory to their citizens and government officials living in Pakistan’s Islamabad to “limit their movement and increase vigilance” amid the rising terror threat. Saudi Arabia has warned its nationals to “be cautious” and not step out except for emergency purposes. “Security of Islamabad has been placed at the highest level,” the advisory said. It has also asked Saudi residents in the city to contact the embassy and consulate in case of an emergency. Meanwhile, the Australian embassy has urged its people to reconsider their need to visit Pakistan. “Avoid non-essential travel. Do your research and check that your insurer will cover you. If you do travel, take extra precautions to protect yourself from security and health risks,” the Australian advisory read. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/after-us-uk-saudi-australia-issue-security-alert-for-citizens-in-pakistan-s-islamabad/ar-AA15GbTf) The development comes in connection with the suicide bombing which took place in Islamabad last week where one policeman and a taxi driver were killed.

Newsline: Pakistan Top Diplomat Says There’s a Bounty on His Head

Diplomatic tensions are high between old rivals India and Pakistan after a high-profile Pakistani diplomat said he received death threats from a member of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this week. Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said in a Bloomberg interview that there’s a $240,000 reward issued by an Indian political worker to behead him. (https://www.vice.com/en/article/akepkb/bilawal-bhutto-zardari-narendra-modi-diplomacy-butcher-terrorism) The bounty is in response to his statement at the United Nations Security Council meeting last week where Bhutto-Zardari called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “butcher of Gujarat,” referring to the deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 in the Indian state, while Modi was the chief minister. The bounty was first reported on by reporters in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, which is considered the heart of Hindu nationalism. Local BJP member Manupal Bansal said he will give a reward of $240,000 to anyone “who will behead minister Bilawal Bhutto.”

Newsline: US embassy warns of potential attack in Pakistan’s capital

The United States embassy in Islamabad has warned its staff of a possible attack on Americans at a top hotel as Pakistan’s capital is already on high alert two days after a suicide bombing. The US government has obtained information that “unknown individuals are possibly plotting to attack Americans at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad sometime during the holidays”, the embassy said in a security alert on Sunday.The advisory banned US embassy staff and other nationals from visiting the popular hotel over the Christmas holiday. The US mission also urged all personnel to refrain from non-essential travel in Islamabad during the holiday season. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/12/25/us-warns-of-potential-attack-on-top-hotel-in-pakistans-capital) The embassy directive followed a suicide bombing in a residential area of Islamabad on Friday, which killed a police officer and wounded 10 people.