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Swiss Flag Burnt in Pakistan
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    swiss flag
It is perhaps not the first time that a Swiss flag has been burnt, but it is certainly the first time the flag of the neutral country of Switzerland has been burnt by terrorists and their allies. This incident recently took place in Pakistan, and is among the series of diplomatic self-goals by the country’s Foreign Office mandarins in the last few days- the most striking of these being Maleha Lodhi, Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who during her speech waved a photo of a Palestinian woman claiming she was a victim of the Indian Army atrocities in Kashmir.

The burning of the Swiss flag was in reaction to a series of posters that appeared in mid-September on Geneva’s billboards, buses and trams, calling for Free Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province annexed by force in 1948 and since then in revolt against the central government. Pakistani Ambassador to Switzerland Farukh Amil was quick to formally lodge a protest with the Swiss authorities claiming that the NGO that had put up the posters was linked to the Baluchistan Liberation Army, a declared terrorist organization in Pakistan. The Swiss government more or less ignored his protest. 
Therefore, the Foreign Office in Islamabad decided to summon Thomas Kolly, the Swiss Ambassador-designate, to forward another protest. Kolly is learnt to have politely replied that his country had freedom of expression and it would not be possible for the Swiss authorities to do much on these posters. At that point, the Chairman of the Pakistani Senate Raza Rabbani also accused the Swiss of allowing `anti-Pakistan activities` on its territory, contrary to the United Nations Charter and called for the expulsion of the Swiss Ambassador from the country.  Meanwhile, a media campaign was also launched in Pakistan, holding the Indian Mission in Geneva responsible for the posters.

swissflag1The Swiss Ambassador has not yet been expelled but instead in the last week of September a couple of buses and trams in Geneva were seen with posters calling for the freedom of Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Tripura and other provinces of India. Of course, it takes no imagination to guess who funded these posters. However, unfortunately for them, this counter move went largely unnoticed in Geneva as well as in Delhi.

 As a result, the Pakistanis resorted to a different type of counter-offensive- using proxies propped up by the country’s secret services, thereby allowing the government deniability for these actions, while giving the impression of the incident as being a spontaneous reaction by the public. Therefore, a small crowd  'spontaneously' gathered to burn and trample the Swiss flag and to accuse Geneva of 'hosting terrorists'. 

What, however, went unnoticed by many was that the crowd burning the Swiss flag was led by Zakria Mohammed Hassani, well-known for the killing of human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud for hosting a conference in Balochistan in her library. Hassani, one of the `good jihadis` protected by the Pakistani army, is involved in torture, murders, and abductions of civilians, women and children. 

It is high time that Islamabad realizes that it cannot be playing the victim card forever. Lashing out at Switzerland, which hosts Brahumdagh Bugti, leader of the Baloch Republican Party and known in Pakistan as a ‘terrorist’, though he has never fired a shot in his life, would only expose Pakistan’s duplicity. Pakistan should also not forget that it is in Geneva that the Pakistan ISI-funded Kashmir Center, whose leaders have been jailed in Washington for a series of crimes, is allowed to function and it is in Swiss banks that Pakistani politicians and military Generals stash away their ill-gotten wealth. 

The world is fast losing its patience with Pakistan and the country needs to undertake the difficult task of a course correction including reining in radical groups currently having a free run.
Francesca Marino