Tightening the Authoritarian Noose Around the People’s Neck

Source: flare.pk

Pakistan is not a country we should feel proud of anymore. It has increasingly become an entity that is acting hostile to the people it is supposed to stand for. This is clear and evident by the recent curbs on political freedom and freedom of speech in the current year reminiscent of the years of the military dictatorship in the country. However, the comment of the current Chairman PTA, who happens to be a military officer (surprise, surprise) is unprecedented.

The PTA Chairman Maj. Gen. (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa, whose name sounds eerily related to the current Army Chief, said that social media in Pakistan should be blocked in the manner of China and the UAE. He recommended that Pakistan should develop its own social media channels to allow for state censorship and censor inappropriate content. Appointed in December 2018, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, General Bajwa mainly focused on “blasphemous content” to make his case of taking away the right of citizens to use social media to express their voices. If anyone had doubts about democracy being under threat in Pakistan, this statement should remove it.

The Chairman PTA was testifying to the Senate panel examining purported grievances where he remarked that “either the technical abilities of the organization be enhanced or the allow them to block social media websites to stop the circulation of blasphemous material.”  Even though nobody is ever going to explain what a retired general is doing serving this position and one which he is most likely not qualified for, his comments will largely go unaccounted for other than some fringe criticism on the social media of all the places. Nobody is going to mention it on the mainstream media and any criticism on the national news is improbable.

Surely, for the PTA chairman, blocking more than 850,000 porn and news websites are not enough. It is pretty clear that for these state authoritarians, it is not nearly enough. They want to go after the internet itself and if not the internet connectivity to maintain a facade of modernity, they will neuter it to an unusable state-regulated version.

With the launch of CPEC development projects and the rolling out of the optic fiber link from Khunjerab to Gwadar, one of the biggest fears is the Chinese internet spilling over into Pakistan. While thankfully the CPEC projects in Pakistan have appeared to slow down, it has nevertheless inspired the civil and military bureaucratic despots at the reins of administration in this country.

Unfortunately, the narratives these anti-democratic forces have nurtured for the past seventy years have duped well-meaning conservative citizens into believing that their civil rights and political freedoms are bad for them and for the country. Even in the name of blasphemy and national security, there is no shortage of urban nationalist conservatives in the country who would gladly sacrifice the internet as a public enemy.

The greatest tragedy of all is the fascist administration of PTI, a party that was pretty much built by and through the power of social media, other than a little help of our military establishment of late. More than the duplicitous and malicious leadership of the PTI, the people who would be the greatest losers are the urban educated voters of the party who look down upon the traditional and less privileged voters all across Pakistan. The government they voted in might be infringing on their rights but they have a choice to speak up. Pretty soon this little freedom we have will be gone.

Pakistan still has a lot to lose, which it continues to lose every day.

The New Censorship Regime in Pakistan

Source: Pakistan Today

After ten years of relative democracy in the country after General Pervez Musharraf’s resignation from 2008 to the last election in 2018, the country enjoyed an oasis of the explosion of free expression. Again that free expression is an expression to be used in relevant terms. Either way, Pakistan has not seen such flourishing of journalism in its history until the new censorship regime was introduced by the military and bureaucratic establishment.

With the assumption of office of the current military establishment and their subsequent “selection” of the PTI administration under Imran Khan, the censorship of the media has never been escalated to such a degree. Other than the organized harassment campaigns against journalists, the twitter handles of three journalists were forcibly deactivated temporarily by the state agents. Sadly, there is ample data on the web for anybody who wants to write a paper on it.

Journalist Hamid Mir recently held a press conference in which he sounded like a political activist campaigning for rights instead of a reporter. Well, things have gone this bad for journalists in the country and probably more than ever before.

 

Only a few days back, the ruling political party removed all doubts whatsoever as far as its support of the crackdown on journalists is concerned. Many journalists can barely believe that a party that owes so much of its current support to the media.

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Pakistani state agenda’s true representative political party PTI went out of its way to launch a disgusting campaign against press freedom. What they pretty much mean is that if a journalist is not following state propaganda, they are committing treason. Some of the tweets even directly implied that as reported by Dawn.

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The powerful DG ISPR also routinely lectures journalists about what they should report on.

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The ruling party PTI, which rose to power as a result of constant media coverage when it was in the opposition, has routinely blocked coverage to the opposition. Particularly Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a new leader on the rise, protesting with the aim to free her father former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified and jailed following two controversial judgments. Media outlets such as Geo Network have been repeatedly blocked in local cable following the coverage of her rallies. Earlier interviews of President Asif Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif were blocked from the media but the latter was not even mentioned in the mainstream electronic media, which the military and bureaucratic establishment, along with the PTI considers the actual source of public information.

To many journalists, the kind of censorship practiced under the PTI regime even surpasses the standards set by the draconian Zia regime. However, the difference is that this 21st-century censorship continues despite the presence of social media on the parallel. Considering how dissent is considered “treason” by the patriotic lot in Pakistan, wonder when we will see a blanket ban on social media. We know our government has tried that before in the previous administration. The day people finally decide to come out on the streets against this draconian government, that day is not far off either.

Pakistan can become Sudan any day.

Sharif and Netanyahu: One Handshake I Would Like to See Making News

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

I just came across a post from the Israeli Prime Minister on social media reporting on his interaction with the leaders of the world, including the Indian Prime Minister, in the recent Paris Climate Change Conference. Just imagine for a second the awkwardness of the Israeli and Pakistani leaders completely ignoring each other’s existence during the leader summit. Maybe it would take more than climate change to unite the nations of the world.

During the conference, two handshakes made news, only suggestive of how bad things are between those nations: The one between PM Nawaz Sharif and PM Narendra Modi, and the other involving PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But one handshake that I would have liked to see making news would be between Pakistani Prime Minster Sharif and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

This only takes you to the idiotic foreign policy Pakistan, and a number of other Muslim majority countries, mostly Arab, have been maintaining toward Israel. There is hardly any doubt that Pakistan has been losing a tremendous opportunity for decades by not building its relations with Israel, despite being aligned with the Western alliance that both are part of, including the Gulf Arab states. Let it be issues like defense and security or trade and educational exchanges, the opportunities offered by the diplomatic relations would be unlimited. But only if the people of Pakistan open their minds to them and drop old prejudices for a while, if not for good.

What is even worse is that due to the diplomatic vacuum in the region for Israel, its partnership with India, Pakistan’s primary rival, has been strengthening manifold on the defense front. Pakistanis have the option to keep on whining about how the Jewish people are the sworn enemies of Muslims and are colluding with Hindus against them. Or they could try joining forces with Israel themselves. If the Israelis are being hostile, have the Pakistanis given them a chance to be friends? Even once? Actually, Pakistan’s defense interests are more aligned with Israel than ever with common threats in the region.

We need to understand that the diplomatic boycott of Israel is not just an expression of political hostility, it stems out of antisemitism. We certainly should know better than that. Now that even some Gulf states are opening new diplomatic avenues with Israel, and Arab League members proposing recognizing Israel in a peace plan, Pakistan certainly does not need to be bound by any obligation to them.

Furthermore, since Pakistan’s beef with Israel, as is the case with other Muslim majority countries, is the occupation of Jerusalem, diplomatic relations would put them in a far better position for negotiating peace. Besides, the priority of peace for the Middle East should be the independence and recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state and the protection of the rights of the people rather than pursuing a religious crusade.

Building relations with Israel would be a step forward to improving tolerance and acceptance among the people of Pakistan, who have been conditioned to riot at the very mention of Israel. Pakistan needs to expand its horizons for a brighter future and must not restrict itself with the false obligations of being a Muslim majority state. We need to interact in a saner manner with the global community and the current civilian leadership is capable of bringing about the required results.

It is time to break our shackles and embrace the policy of friendship and cooperation instead of insisting on bigotry, boycott and hate.

It is time to establish relations with Israel and recognize its right to exist.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Shaista Zaid Retires

Source: PTV

Shaista Zaid is a name synonymous with English language news bulletins for my generation, those growing up in the late 80s and 90s in Pakistan. But actually, her career spanned over 43 years.

I have been talking of late of how we have completely lost the Pakistan we once knew and grew up with, let it be the sights and sounds, the culture, the solidarity and the experience, so there goes another part of the old Pakistan with the announcement of her retirement on July 21, 2012.

Here is her brief biography. It is hard to believe she started her career in 1969.

Well she had to stop reading news one day, though she never seems to get old. But she will never be forgotten by my generation.

I hope she enjoys her retirement.

Selling Misery

Source: newstimes.com

What happens when they start dealing in misery? What if their bread is earned when people bathe in blood and tears? Nothing much, it makes some very engaging and entertaining television. Not implying that they cause the misery themselves, although you could always speculate, but the world has enough troubles to keep people occupied at the same time anyway. After all, it is a huge planet. But it is a small world.

Everyone seems to know everything, even though they understand nothing. But at least everyone gets to know what is happening around. The media are there to tell you that. News every second of the day. Well, if you look at the world headlines, they hardly stretch past three stories, but of course, that is not the case with the domestic issues, which in case of certain countries, as the ones located in the subcontinent are rather of a violent and unpleasant nature.

There are crimes and misdimeanors and then there are natural calamities, floods, earthquakes, plagues and epidemic and accidents. There also is terrorism, the latest spice in the soup of misery, the one we sip day after day, night after night. The one that tastes unbearably horrible, but the one that we have grown addicted to. Like a junkie who cannot afford to buy his favorite drug anymore and suffices himself on whatever thrill he can find.

Writing about misery is like waging wars. You need to find some evil to write about, to whine about, just like you need to create some evil to wage war against. Oh, pardon me, find evil, or realize its existence wherever it maybe and in whatever form, especially Weapons of Mass Destruction. But there is always enough supply of what is considered to be evil in our world, if anyone sets their mind to write about it. Their task is much simpler than that of the general or the politician or the diplomat-statesman.

But then again, there are the overzealous, and then there is professional competitiveness. The eagerness to cover and report the story first, the eagerness to determine the cause and effect first, the eagerness to declare the verdict first and most of all, the eagerness to sell the misery first. The winner takes it all and the early bird catches the worm. You need to be at the right time, at the right place, with the right words. Just leave any sense of civility at home, if you happen to have it.

Some people died of a terrorist bomb blast. Oh, jolly good. But strategy first. You, move to the crime scene, you, the hospital, you, call the buffoon Interior Minister, you, call the retarded Chief of the Police, you, call the sadist analyst, you, shoot the corpses, you, write copy and you, read the bloody news. And tell the marketing guy this is why the headlines should just follow that ad that we run every hour.

But don’t get me wrong.

They are doing an excellent job.

Somebody has got to do it anyway.

People need to be informed of what is going on in the world.

But of course there comes a time when it is all too obvious that too much information for comfort is being attempted to be published. Something that certainly no one wants to know, or even see.

But it is information nevertheless.

The more information, the better.

Remember that, always.

As news reporters, we intend to bring you the very emotions that people go through when they lose a loved one.

We go beyond impersonal facts.

We bring you, the reality.

And did we say that we will entertain you as well.

By humiliating them.

Exhibit A.

INT. BILAL’S HOUSE OR THE SCENE OF MOURNING – DAY

We see a crowd gathered around a house. We walk in. We see a corpse lying in the middle of the room, clad in a white shroud, surrounded by women of all ages, who are wailing and crying. We see our correspondent.

 CORRESPONDENT

  Viewers, as you can see the corpse of 10 year old Bilal and you would also

 be able to listen to the wailing of his family. He died in a bus accident that

took place yesterday, killing 30 more like him. A very emotional scene, I

have to say. Let us go and talk to the family to learn how exactly they

are feeling.

Walks up to the crying mother.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

What exactly happened here? How did he die? Although I know.

  MOTHER

  (traumatized, wailing)

 (Says something incomprehensible) Bus accident. (Continues saying

something incomprehensible).

CORRESPONDENT

Viewers, you just listened to the mother of the child. Nerve-wrecking

scenes here. Let us now talk to the little sister of the kid to get an idea

 of how exactly she is feeling.

Walks up to a five year old girl who looks shell shocked. The correspondent thrusts his microphone in front of her face. She starts staring at it.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

 How are you feeling?

A man standing beside the girl, whose legs are the only things visible in the scene, pushes the girl to speak. No response.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

 Do you miss your brother?

 LITTLE GIRL

  Yes.

SLOW MOTION.

We hear a depressing sitar or sarangi Indian classical music tune to go with the sentimental response.

CLOSE UP.

We see the corpse of the young Bilal pictured in a psychedelic fashion.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

Little Bilal wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. But now, he cannot.

He pauses and smiles.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

Because he is dead.

And remember, you saw this exclusive report first on <insert name> Channel.

Stay tuned for more action.

I could make a few bucks selling this scene and these lines to a local news channel. But then again, it would be plagiarism.

I stole the idea from one of them anyway.

Our Truth is Truer Than Your Truth

Date: October 27, 2010

Setting: Rawlakot, Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Poonch, Indian Administered Kashmir.

Fact: Exchange of fire on the LOC (Kashmir Part of India-Pakistan Border)

Indian Side:

The following news was reported by the Times of India.

2 Ceasefire violations by Pak at Poonch, Uri Sectors in J-K

JAMMU: Pakistan on Wednesday violated the ceasefire agreement and opened heavy fire on forward Indian positions in the Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir, army sources said, adding no casualty or loss has been reported so far.

Sources said the Pakistan troops opened heavy firing from machine guns and fired rockets on the Forward Defended Locations (FDLs) namely Kranti, Kripan and Ravi in Krishnaghati sub-sector along the Line of Control.

The Army spokesperson confirmed the incident and said the Pak troops opened heavy fire using machine guns and RPG rockets on Indian posts in Krihna Ghati sector at around 1530 hrs. He also said the encounter is still on. He however added that Indian side observed restrained to avoid escalation of tension in area.

He said it is clear case of ceasefire violation and has been done to facilitate the pushing the infiltrators into Indian side.

In an earlier ceasefire violation, Pak troops fired on the Indian posts in same sector for an hour in which on army jawan was killed on Oct 24. Pakistani troops had fired on Indian posts in Kerni at Jallas sub-sector along the Line of Control ( LoC) in Poonch district on October 1 and 2. Pak troops also violated ceasefire on September 28 and 29 in the Krishna Ghati sub-sector in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan Side:

This was the piece as reported by the Samaa News.

Indian army opens fire on PPP rally in Azad Kashmir

Staff Report

MUZAFFARABAD: The Indian army opened fire on the rally organized by Pakistan Peoples’ Party where one man wounded Wednesday.

Kashmiris are observing the black day throughout the world against the Indian occupation in Kashmir.

Indian army opened fire on the rally when it reached near Taitri, Batal Sector where one man injured.

Pakistan minister for information, Qamar-uz Zaman Kaira, while talking to media persons in Lahore, said that the government condemned the incident and will protest. SAMAA

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