Finally Coming After Your Social Media

Source: Dawn

Well, recruiting an army of trolls just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough because it didn’t work. It wasn’t enough because dissident journalists and bloggers such as Gul Bukhari and Ahmed Waqas Goraya were simply not shutting up.

After a humiliating exit of DG ISPR General Asif Ghafoor from his position, and rightly so because perhaps such erratic tweeting didn’t suit a DG ISPR, it seemed for a while that the troll army had retreated for a moment. This occurred after hundreds of fake accounts run by nationalist trolls were deleted by twitter. However, the new DG ISPR Babar Iftikhar does not sound like much of a fan of a free media either, as has been the case with the Bajwa-Imran regime.

Ever since the Bajwa-Imran regime has established itself in its full glory since the elections in July 2019, they have been hell-bent to curb media freedom. There has been a crackdown on bloggers and political dissidents and several

While people were wondering if it was about time that the government thought about pulling the cord on the social media, the government finally delivered a kind of low that has no parallel in history. The draconian Cybercrime Act under the PML-N had set the stage for this government overreach, which ironically resulted in the detention of the members of Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s own social media team following the Dawn Leaks controversy. On top of that, the PTI government has proposed the Citizens Protection Against Online Harm Rules 2020, which the cabinet has already passed and which will not be up for voting in the parliament. Unfortunately, no opposition party is expected to deliver a reasonable response to this, let alone oppose this measure heavily criticized by many commentators. Obviously, these directives are coming from the military establishment.

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

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

Not just that, the federal authorities in Pakistan went a step ahead by issuing journalist Gul Bukhari a notice on terrorism charges. They accused her of using incendiary language against the security institutions in Pakistan.

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

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

It is probably the biggest joke considering how Ehsanullah Ehsan, the controversial spokesperson of the Taliban has been kept as almost a state guest by Pakistan authorities. What was worse Ehsansullah Ehsan had claimed to escape the custody of the military and was later found to be in Turkey. The Interior Minister Ijaz Shah later acknowledged that he is missing as well, sparking fury among APS parents.

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

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

Supposedly liberal ministers in the PTI cabinet such as Fawad Chaudhary made an excuse for the policy, citing taxation on social networks. Diverting attention by insisting that the proposed draconian measures by the government are for economic reasons cannot fool either the skeptical dissenters and the suspecting foreign commentators who are well aware of the nefarious intentions of the state. It also does not require an expert to conclude that these directives are coming not from the PTI but a higher and deeper state authority. What is disappointing though is the silence of PTI, a party that rose to power thanks to the social media, and the shamelessness with which it is defending the unprecedented curbs on the media and freedom of speech.

If Pakistan indeed suspends social media citing a lack of control over content critical to it, then it must face repercussions from the international community. The greatest responsibility will be on the United States to see beyond its strategic relationship with the country and impose sanctions on the country. The European Union and Great Britain must also take similar action to press Pakistan over possibly denying its citizens the fundamental access to the internet. There could not have been a worse state of media and citizen freedom in Pakistan.

Giving Democracy the Boot

Source: Dawn

Faisal Vawda, the PTI Minister of Water Resources, and known for his signature outrageous antics, made a new history along with provocative ARY News anchor Kashif Abbasi. In a talk show, which also featured opposition leaders Senator Javed Abbasi of the PML-N and Qamar Zaman Kaira of the PPP on the panel.

In the middle of the talk show, Faisal Vawda took out a military boot, symbolic of the Pakistani military, and put it on the panel desk. Both the opposition leaders walked out in protest. This was meant to insult the reversal of PML-N on their anti-military stance as well as the corruption of their leaders, who have supposedly made another deal with the military establishment to flee the country. All this while, the PTI ministers have been criticizing the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif for fleeing the country under the false pretense of medical reasons.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
As insulting, idiotic, and completely reckless Vawda’s “boot ko izzat do” action is, being our last Pakistani Idiot of the Year, his comments in the show remind the opposition of a harsh reality. The PML-N leadership has forsaken its anti-establishment workers and left them hanging while conveniently abandoning their criticism of the military leadership in exchange for Nawaz Sharif’s departure to London for medical treatment. It was on social media, that their anti-establishment supporters had started the criticism of “boot ko izzat do” (Give respect to the boot (military establishment)) as a spinoff of “vote ko izzat do” (Give respect to the vote) which was the slogan of PML-N in the 2018 elections. It is not as if the phrase was coined by Vawda.

Kashif Abbasi, the ARY News anchor, the look on whose face was worth watching, probably did the right thing to let Vawda make his point from a broadcaster’s viewpoint. It certainly created broadcast history no matter how terrible it was for political discourse in the country. However, PEMRA had slapped Abbasi with a 60-day ban, which will be reviewed. On the other side, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister, has expressed his displeasure over Vawda’s behavior in the talk show and imposed a ban on him on appearing on talk shows.

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

The Vawda boot episode only goes to show the dismal state of democracy and civilian supremacy in Pakistan in which the deep state and its representatives have dropped all pretense about their interference in politics. It is symptomatic of this disregard of the constitutional roles of institutions which has enabled a loudmouth such as Vawda to indulge in this shameless behavior. However, you could argue that there was a lot of truth in Vawda’s rant.

Which makes you wonder if Vawda is the only political leader brave enough to even mention the involvement of the “boot” in politics on mainstream media so openly.

Perhaps he is a free-speech hero and not an idiot after all.

Why the Cynical Fascism of Hassan Nisar Must Be Rejected

Source: Unknown

For too long, former comrade Hassan Nisar has been spewing a bit too much hate for democracy and for the intellect of the people of Pakistan and for far too long he has been tolerated. He has been tolerated because the general public perception is that he is an intellectual. Perhaps he is, but the idea he has been propagating for years now. You do not need to take my word for it. Go and watch hours after hours of footage on YouTube and Pakistani social media and you will have some idea about what we are saying.

Of course, the secular elements in the country take a lot of pleasure in his scathing commentary on the mullahs and the religious fundamentalists. They love how he destroys the religious clerics and their approach to secular education and science.

With such opinions, at least the secularists liked to listen to him because he was a secular man. However, his recent disappointing comments about religion card has put shadows of doubt over this idea as well. To add insult to injury, his decision to paint Imran Khan as a savior ended up in great embarrassment for himself due to the dismal performance of his administration, which he has admitted himself.

Recently, the PTI government has taken upon itself to defend former dictator General Pervez Musharraf in court for the proceedings against him in the treason or Article 6 charge. The General had abrogated the Constitution in 1999 in a bloodless coup to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which according to the Constitution itself is a treasonous act. In turn, Nawaz Sharif opened this case against him when he came to power.

The Report Card show from Geo TV Network which involved this subject had a discussion on democracy that quickly escalated into the following. Hassan Nisar, like always, was cynical about any hint of democracy in Pakistan.

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

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

The full show can be watched in the following video.

Hassan Nisar’s basic thesis is that the Pakistani people must be educated first before they can be trusted with something such as democracy. While the cynic in us would tend to agree with him, it cannot be stressed enough how dangerous this line of argument is. It is a self-defeating statement more than anything else and has nothing to do with any solutions.

Hassan Nisar, just like all the defenders of the military establishment, he blames all of the current democratic and constitutional crises on the politicians. He considers any legal proceedings against former military dictators as needless and even refuses to recognize “sham” democratic institutions in Pakistan. To make matters worse for himself, he even defended Musharraf’s controversial properties dismissing it as his private affair. However, he would refuse to apply the same principle to the Sharifs, who he has been bitterly opposing for decades.

This is not just one incident but the clip in this tweet is perhaps Hassan Nisar at his worst. He is not arguing but ranting. What is worse, he was being inexcusably and unnecessarily rude to other speakers on the show. Many on twitter were blaming it on him possibly being drunk at that time but those who have listened to him for years now are familiar that his moral constipation has a far longer history and it has nothing to do with a moment of weakness.

We have been following Hassan Nisar for a very long time and obviously, his rhetoric has some basis on logic. Only for that reason, he has gathered a fan following or viewers or readers over the years. But people, especially the youth should be wary of considering him an ideal for deriving their political thought.

For too long, Pakistanis have been fed the Caliph Syndrome thanks to a quote by Umer II or Umer I about a ruler being even responsible for a calf dying by the Euphrates river. Such cynicism has only harmed both democracy and public thought in Pakistan. People expect unrealistic miracles and solutions from political leadership, looking for a Caliph, and when they fail to meet those goals, they wait for a Messiah in the shape of a military general who would have a silver bullet solution for all their woes. Of course, the dictator never works for them either but at least they were happy about the sudden “appearance” of a charismatic leader out of nowhere without any voting. Perhaps, military dictators such as Zia and Musharraf are indeed sent by Allah. It is the same principle that is being applied to the binary regime of Imran Khan and General Bajwa.

Hassan Nisar is great for social media moments and gratification of the emotions of the political cynic in Pakistan, but in terms of substance and ideology, we should surely look elsewhere.

The caustic, cynical fascism of Hassan Nisar must be rejected.

The Pakistani Student Left is Rising Again

Source: The News

It is about time. They have been repressed for way too long. And this country cannot hide what embarrasses it anymore in the age of information. In a huge blow to the “fifth-generation warfare” effort of the DG ISPR, a completely wrong kind of group has been capturing all the limelight of late on social and alternate media like Naya Daur. The Progressive Students Collective.

We never thought we would see this day when the socialists in Pakistan will ever catch the public eye but the credit goes to the patient Progressive Students Federation. During the Faiz Festival, the “jacket girl” was seen chanting revolutionary anthems from the Independence Movement era and revolutionary socialist slogans.

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

 

The jacket girl is now an icon.

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

Immediately, the students who were vocally challenging the establishment and patriarchal structure were bombarded with abuse on social media. Arooj was attacked for being too elitist to be raising revolutionary socialist slogans with people focusing on the leather jacket that she was wearing. Even though, the trained eye could see how elitist those students in the group were.

Interviews such as these on Naya Daur allowed Arooj Aurangzeb, the leather jacket girl, and her comrades to explain themselves as far as their privilege and class was concerned.

The demands of the students organizing the Solidarity March are pretty straight forward and uncomplicated. They want free education, the reversal of impossible fee hikes, increase in education budget, reversal in cuts, access to audited reports of universities, action against sexual harassment and intimidation by surveillance, and, most importantly, the restoration of student unions in academic institutions to enable the inclusion of students in policymaking that concerns them.

Conservative Pakistan has a severe aversion to student politics because it has been systematically dismantled by the bureaucratic establishment in the country. They introduced violence in it through the Jamaat-e-Islami until platforms such as the NSF were disintegrated and so was the concept of student unions. Student Unions became synonymous with violence and intimidation and middle-class conservatives started associating politics with the same evil. The Zia regime had banned student politics and earlier Ayub Khan was threatened by it too. The military dictators saw curbing student politics an effective way of crushing any possible dissent challenging their illegitimate government.

However, this new rise of the left student politics is heartening. Seeing bold and courageous young women such as Arooj Aurangzeb is heartening. This is a sign that the future may not be all dark and gloomy for Pakistan and that we are seeing an entity other than Islami Jamiat Talaba as a part of Student Politics. This is why the Student Solidarity March is being organized this Friday.

I urge all the progressives, center and center-left liberals as well as all pro-democracy conservatives and human rights advocates to join students on the Solidarity March on November 29 at 1400 HRS across the country.

To Support Maulana’s Azadi March or Not

Source: geo.tv

Life throws some tough dilemmas your way. As if your everyday moral questions were not enough, history brought people to a crossroads which surely disturbed them in one way or the other. And sometimes the choices you make tell a lot about where you stand. Especially if they happen to be Pakistanis who are secular liberals and anti-establishment.

To support Maulana’s Azadi March or not.

There are many secular leftists who have simply rejected the idea of a Maulana vehicle being an ideal platform for the promotion of democracy. The likes of the Awami Workers Party and Jibran Nasir, who are always proactive on social issues, chose not to support the march because of the religious card, bigotry against Ahmedis, and the exclusion of women from the platform, something which Marvi Sirmed also pointed out.

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

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

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

Most of the pro-establishment and/or pro-status quo or pro-Imran Khan liberals completely reject the notion of the Azadi March because it is being led by a religious party or because of the “religious card.” The religious card here particularly being focus on preserving the finality of Prophethood or Khatm-e-Nabuwat, a fancy name of the anti-Ahmedi movement in Pakistan, and against attempts to amend the blasphemy law. Many of these critics agree that anti-establishment liberals are compromising their principles by cheering for Maulana’s march.

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

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

Other anti-establishment center-left and right liberals, especially those sympathetic to the current cause of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and the emerging anti-establishment leadership of Maryam Nawaz, are not playing so safe. They are fully behind the march and even taking jabs at those sitting out citing the religious card, including the pro-establishment liberals who are subtly supporting the Imran Khan administration.

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

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
The politically incorrect Gul Bukhari is, of course, all for the march and disappointment at the PML-N for their half-hearted support.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
The PTM has distanced itself from the march citing its impact of perpetuating an “obsolete system of government,” albeit supporting their right to protest. PML-N and PPP, meanwhile, are partially participating and avoiding the march for some mysterious reasons only known to them.

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

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

Many anti-establishment seculars tend to agree but acknowledge at the back of their minds that some kind of resistance needs to be offered to the current government.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
There have been no shortages of false comparisons with the Khomeini-led revolution in Iran to discredit the march and even dismissals mentioning that it is no Hong Kong or Beirut protest. Indeed this march is neither. But surely, it has been facing a media blackout which has become the characteristic of the Bajwa-Imran regime. These visuals were nowhere to be seen on national TV.

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

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

As of today, the Awami National Party, which is as secular a party as they come in Pakistan, Another secular nationalist party Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai had joined the march right from the start in Karachi on October 27.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
The Maulana’s caravans might enter Islamabad any hour now and the procession which was supposed to happen today has been delayed until Friday afternoon prayers, partially because of the Rahimyar Khan train tragedy.

It is clear that Maulana’s party does not see this march as a mission to enforce Sharia in the country, as much as some people trying to make it sound like that. It is indeed not directed against the military but it does channel some of the frustration of the public against the Imran Khan administration, if not against the Bajwa-Imran regime. It may occasionally mention the selectors but it is surely not against them.

So are you supporting the March too? I am not “supporting” a Mulllah’s party either but I sure as well don’t mind it is happening. And pretty much agree with all its objectives other than “protecting the Islamic provisions of the constitution.” If the capital can be paralyzed for the good part of the year for discrediting a legitimately elected government and for rigging allegations for four constituencies, it can surely be shut down for locking up the entire opposition and almost killing a three-times elected Prime Minister. And the latter is my biggest reason to march against the current administration.

The only problem is that the agenda of this march barely mentions that.

The Televised Slow Killing of Another National Leader

Source: samaa,tv

Pakistan has a history of getting rid of its democratically elected leaders in a manner that is both torturous to them and to their supporters. From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Akbar Bugti and from Murtaza Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto, there is a long history of the Pakistani deep state establishment influencing the demise of popular leaders. These days, another national leader is being killed slowly and his demise is being televised all across the nation. The only three times Prime Minister in the history of the country, Mian Nawaz Sharif.

The government has been resorting to the petty measures of denying the former Prime Minister proper medical care for several weeks, as promised in Imran Khan’s speech in a Washington D. C. rally, until his situation brought him on the verge of death. He was denied bail repeatedly despite recommendations from his doctors. A patient of heart disease, his level of blood platelets fell to a critical level. Even his kidneys are said to be affected of late and he has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Foul play is not being dismissed as an explanation for his condition.

On the other hand, President Asif Ali Zardari is also being held despite his worsening condition in terms of his cardiac health. His family is being prevented to see him. Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is being held on frivolous allegations by NAB and was kept with the death row prisoners. The controversial and corrupt National Accountability Bureau, which was perhaps established to target political victims, remains to be the central body behind the inhuman treatment of national leaders who have not abrogated the constitution or committed treason, unlike their leniency for the former dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Meanwhile, the silence of his supporters and the people of Punjab for a man who has done so much in their service has been deafeningly loud. What is perhaps even worse is the attitude of his brother and current Opposition Leader and former Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the party leaders in his camp who remain silent on his dismal condition. These leaders, which include Former Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Former Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, are still rooting for making up with the military and finding a way back into the cozy corridors of power that the Punjab politicians are so used to.

So leaders such as Ahsan Iqbal can bother to hold Kashmir Rallies to please the national security establishment but they will not take it to the streets for the health and safety of his leader. All he could ask for was prayers for his leader on the deathbed, with passively outraging about the brutal measures of the current administration. The PML-N loyalists should never forget how these leaders have behaved in these circumstances when Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz Sharif are being incarcerated for political reasons.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
But more than anything, it is the callousness and the indifference of the people of Punjab which hurts the most. They have betrayed yet another political leader who stood up for democracy and civilian supremacy in Pakistan. You would expect that there would be streets erupting with protestors in solidarity with Nawaz Sharif, angry at the kind of abuse he is being subjected to in the prison by the Punjab government.

Had Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman not announced his “Azadi March” against the government, the agenda of which does not even mention the political arrests of the opposition leadership, there would be no protests against the current government. The secular opposition is disappointing who would not even come out on the streets with their leadership on the verge of death and for ceding space to Islamist parties such as the JUI-F.

Nawaz Sharif’s situation has become stable since the scare on October 22 but he is still on his deathbed. Maryam had said much earlier that the government will be responsible if anything happened to Nawaz Sharif. But she can add her uncle’s name and her party leadership to the list of his killers.

The courts finally granted him temporary bail as a desperate measure. His daughter Maryam is still being prevented to see him. And people like Firdaus Ashiq Awan are still making fun of someone struggling for his life.

This is the price of public service in Pakistan.

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.