Khalid Hussain: Another Casualty for Pakistan’s Freedom of Press

Source: Khalid Hussain/The Nation

Pakistan is probably seeing perhaps the worst year in press freedom under the Bajwa-Imran regime in an age in which communications are supposed to advance.

The Nation, one of the traditionally conservative English language newspapers, which had taken a turn for a more liberal narrative in recent years, fired its political cartoonist about a week ago or so. Muhammad Khalid had drawn a satirical cartoon highlighting the toothlessness of Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose megalomania has created an illusion of his person becoming an important statesman capable of resolving long-time international disputes.

The context of this caricature is President Trump offering to mediate between Pakistan and India to help resolve the Kashmir issue.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Here is what The Nation Apology reads:

We would like to apologize deeply for a cartoon that appeared on our pages. The artwork fell short of our editorial standards and does not reflect our editorial policy. It should never have appeared.

We are proud to be a nationalistic paper and we regret sincerely the attention taken by an artwork that was inappropriate, especially at the time of the UN General Assembly session taking place in New York.

The necessary steps have been taken to ensure our internal procedures. And once again, we humbly extend our sincere apologies and regret.

This dismissal may sound like the prerogative of the editor of the publication, who paradoxically had published it, but this is becoming all too common in the self-censoring media in Pakistan. The Nation, an about-to-collapse publication which has been heavily infiltrated with the sympathizers and representatives of the military establishment, could obviously not bear to support such expression on its pages.

The curbs on media freedom in Pakistan have taken a turn for the worse under the Imran-Bajwa regime and several international observers, including Reporters Sans Frontiers, have critiicized the administaration for falsely denying it. Recently, Dawn’s iconic magazine The Herald also closed its operations and several other printing publications are under the threat of vanishing in the country.

Speaking to Gandhara, Khalid Hussain said, “I don’t know how long they will not be printing my cartoons or whether they will ever print my cartoons [again].” He further clarified what he wanted to convey in the cartoon. “I didn’t aim to hit Imran Khan personally. But as the prime minister of the country, he symbolically represents the country he rules,” he said. “What I felt was that Trump has repeatedly assured Pakistan to mediate between India and Pakistan. But he later said that Modi has not agreed to [his mediation].”

Khalid may still try making his political caricatures independently but can never be sure how he is going to pay his bills. This concern has become the biggest moral compass for many professionals in the journalism industry in Pakistan, which increasingly deprives them of fair and timely wages (if they are paid at all) and editorial protection.

This is yet another casualty for freedom of the press in perhaps one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. But then again, the truth being a casualty in Pakistan is just another day in the war-like theocratic Sultanate.

Ghotki Riots and Medina State

Source: Screenshot/Dawn

Last week saw some of the worst anti-Hindu riots in the past months in Pakistan, and especially since India revoked Article 370 in Kashmir. So the story is that a Hindu principal of a local school in Ghotki, Northern Sindh, was accused of blasphemy by a 14-year-old student. Human rights activists Mukesh Meghwar and Kapil Dev were one of the first people to break the story on twitter along with other Hindu human rights activists on the ground in Ghotki. Gradually, the mainstream journalists starting responding to it, spreading the word.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The fires of hate were honed by the infamous Mian Mitthoo or Pir Abdul Haq, who is known for inspiring several forced conversions targeting Hindu Girls. It is interesting to note that you will barely ever hear about a Muslim woman marrying a Hindu woman in Pakistan so it is more about enforcing the supremacy of one community. The man reportedly led the march to the school and also incited destruction in local temples. The Hindu population in the city was reduced to their homes out of security fears. Later, the Sindh government registered a case of religious bigotry against the violent mob but kept a careful distance from Mian Mitthoo himself.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

 

Communal mob violence is a common trait across the Indian subcontinent, if not beyond. However, the form it takes in Pakistan has been particularly facilitated by the state and government of Pakistan over the years. It was great to see people gather in the vandalized temple, assured the community of their safety, and even the police filing a report against the violent mob. However, the reality of the peace and security of the are far from being that convenient.

There is little doubt about the negative role of the State of Pakistan in general in terms of minority rights in the country. However, where the Ghokti episode turned disgusting was the reaction of Prime Minister Imran Khan to it. He continued shamelessly propagating the abstract of Medina-State, the supposed principles of the state created by Prophet Muhammad, even though there is little evidence or knowledge of what it was like other than undemocratic autocratic tribal rule that likely imposed its faith on vanquished Arabian tribes.

Furthermore, the recent propaganda against Hindu nationalism, comparing RSS and Modi with Nazism and Hitler, all over the place in Pakistan as a part of their response to the revocation of Article 370 in India. Not sure if that had exactly helped people’s views of the Hindu community and this came from an administration that claims to treat Hindus and all other minorities as “equal citizens.”

The Pakistani state has been selling these lies since its creation but never like Imran’s Khan hypocritical “Medina State” philosophy. The worst part is lying to the face of the minorities and expecting them to pledge allegiance to a communal contract which they obviously do not consider fair.

Imran Khan not only refused to acknowledge that minorities could not be safe under a theocratic state and needed a secular contract but even went one step further. He declared the Ghotki incident a conspiracy against his United Nations General Assembly Address. Let alone the filthy politics he is playing with the repressed and brutalized Hindu community in Pakistan, his own men must be behind this conspiracy against his address himself, if anyone at all, since Mian Mithoo has gotten fairly close to his party.

Imran Khan’s statement is only reflective of his megalomania and self-obsession as a messianic peacemaker on a global level. Unfortunately, to him, everything centers around him, from India-Pakistan relations, to Kashmir, and to his. This is the central thought behind his delusional and hypothetical Medina State and hypocrisy and lying are its core principles. But of course, only idiots are not according to the dear leader.