Most people that are prosecuted in their various countries seek asylum in the US for safety reasons. Generally, most asylum cases do not attract considerable media attention.
Pamela Constable from the Washington Post wrote an article on Siraji Ahmed Malik a Pakistani journalist who was granted asylum because of the threats against him and the persistent disappearances and deaths that occurred in his hometown of Baluchistan. Realistically, there are multiple reasons why Pakistan has created opprobrium in the media as many perceive it to be a country that has engaged in continued connivance and subterfuge as regards terrorists hiding there. However, why has this asylum case drawn media attention as compared to other asylum cases.
Pakistan is currently a topic of concern due to the recent Bin Laden killing, and also the amount of foreign aid sent to Pakistan from the U.S. According to the Jane Perlez from the New York Times, “ The aid program promoted by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, promised Pakistan $7.5 billion over five years much of it delivered through the civilian government”.
Additionally, the republican presidential candidates have taken the initiative to discuss the dysfunctional relation between the U.S and Pakistan. While candidate Michele Bachman is for the continuity of the relationship, Rick Perry promotes the severing of ties. In the end, there is no doubt that these reasons play a role in this attentiveness given to this particular recent Pakistan asylum case.
Hightlighted in The Washington Post article are extensive discussions of the threats, disappearances, and torture that the journalist and other activists encountered from the Pakistan military intelligence agencies. As a journalist, Malik talked about the reoccurring disappearances and deaths happening in Baluchistan his hometown. As his friends and colleagues were disappearing, he learned that their bodies were discovered with bullet holes and burn marks. He states, “a fellow reporter was kidnapped, and his corpse was found near a river”. Pamela Constable goes on to state that, “Baluchistan is the wild west of Pakistan- a remote desert province, larger than France, that is home to a mix of radical Islamic groups, rival ethnic and refugee’s gangs, rebellious armed tribes, and security agencies that have long been reported to kidnap, torture and kill dissidents with impunity”.
In actuality, the Human Right Watch does back up Siraji Malik’s facts from several sources. On July 23rd, 2011, the Human Rights Watch published a 132 page report titled “‘We Can Torture, Kill or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan security forces in Balochistan” which documents disappearances that the authorities have relentlessly revoked any responsibility. According to the Human Right Watch, “The report details 45 alleged cases of enforced disappearance, the majority in 2009 and 2010.
Although on the U.S. and U.K have urged the Pakistani government to control terrorism it has not in the past pinpointed Pakistan’s human rights record or deviance in often spurious reports.
Hence, it may seem odd to a journalist like Pamela Constable for the U.S. to grant asylum from a country that is supposedly our ally. She comments, “It was a highly unusual decision by US immigration officials given Pakistan’s status: a strategic partner in Washington’s war against Islamic terrorism; a longtime recipient of US aid; and a democracy with an elected civilian government and vibrant national news”.
The protection of an individual should be the utmost priority to the U.S.regardless of its relationship with the specific country and its government. The Immigration and National Act states in INA Section 208 that aliens who fear for their lives or freedom due to threats based on “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group, or political opinion” can claim protection in the U.S. Thus offering asylum to Siraji Malik was mandated. There are numerous countries like Egypt that are allies with the US, but still have some form of persecution that their fellow citizens’ encounter, and most of them eventually seek asylum in the US. Hence, the issue at hand should not be Siraji’s asylum approval case, but rather the blind eye the U.S. has shown towards the crisis in Pakistan.