Hameed Haroon’s Case Against Media Censorship in Pakistan

Source: BBC

The pro-military nationalist and PTI trolls, which are effectively the same team now, have been trumpeting how comprehensively Hameed Haroon was ripped apart for his anti-establishment viewpoint, oblivious of the fact that hard line of questioning is the format of the show. Even some journalists were disappointed by his performance. But I cannot imagine why. There really was nothing about the interview that was not properly handled by him. I have shared the video in this post and clearly, all of them and I are watching completely different shows.

There are a few things to say about the content of the show and the way Hameed Haroon covered it. Other than the disingenuous questioning representing the supposed viewpoint of the nationalistic elements that Stephen Sackur had to come up with to keep up with the format of the show, Haroon used self-restraint for the most part. What the critics of his performance on the show are forgetting is that he could have been far more direct and blunt in his criticism of the military than he was. This was because he was obviously mindful of the fact that he was representing Pakistan on an international media forum.

But it is his duty to the people and journalism in Pakistan to present the case for preserving democracy and freedom of the press in the country. And when his media group is one of the primary victims, he is indeed rightful to make the case against the military imposed censorship. Furthermore, I am very glad he brought up that ridiculous chart that the DG ISPR had put up in his press conference as if to send a message that the bloggers were a criminal cartel or a terrorist group. What about his army of paid trolls? As for the question of Dawn favoring Nawaz Sharif, which any regular reader of the center-left leaning paper knows is simply not true, comes out only of op-ed pieces criticizing the unfair targeting of this political figure by the state establishment, not their reporting.

There is no doubt that Hameed Haroon could have been more articulate than he actually was, Obviously, in my humble opinion, while he is the perfect man to speak on the subject, on the question of evidence for military meddling in the media, he failed to bring up the dozens of journalists killed over a period of five odd years in Pakistan, as well as dozens, if not hundreds more. I am sure the journalists expressing their disappointment must be upset at things of that nature. Everything documented a bit too well by the international media. That is already incriminating evidence against the military intelligence thugs hard at work at curbing dissenting journalism in the name of national security. That is enough evidence you need.

But more than that, more than presenting hard evidence which sounds so cold, it is a matter of experience. It is about the shit we are dealing with every single day. The abduction of Gul Bukhari is not a myth. The harassment of Taha Siddiqui is not a concoction. Nobody made up the story of Umer Cheema picked up by the agencies, tortured, and had his head and eyebrows shaved. Hamid Mir actually got shot by a bullet and Saleem Shahzad paid for his doing his job with his life. A simple Google search will offer you all the evidence you are looking for.

Probably journalists in Pakistan are getting more than they bargained for. They should probably quit their jobs and start selling Pakistani flags and prayer mats to make a living to appease the nationalists at home.

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Why No One Noticed This Historic Day for Pakistan

Source: Dawn.com

General Pervez Musharraf – Source: Dawn.com

March 31, 2014 will remain to be a historic day for Pakistan as a democracy.

Call it political point scoring or obsession with political correctness, but for the first time ever, a special civil court has indicted a former Army General for high treason for abrogating the Constitution.

He has been indicted for the November 2007 emergency, even though I guess his bigger crime was the October 1999 coup d’etat.

However, there is no sense of jubilation among the people of Pakistan. There is a good reason for that.

From the beginning, the Pakistani government establishment has undermined the importance of the Constitution in people’s eyes. And they have very much succeeded in it too.

This is why every time there is an imminent need to suspend people’s rights to save the State, nobody raises a brow. And this is why the violators get away with it every time, destroying the democratic system of government.

And no, I have absolutely no interest in people declaring President Musharraf a “traitor”. Neither do I support the barbaric law of capital punishment for treason.

But I am interested in seeing people who break the law brought to justice. I am interested to see some fair and equal treatment, especially when hundreds of thousands are rotting in prisons for acts that are arguably not even crimes.

Even if the secularists of Pakistan accept the Constitution of Pakistan for its own merits, it should serve as an inviolable social contract for the citizens.

Not only should the Constitution be respected, but it should not be suspended under any circumstances to protect the fundamental rights of the people. And any amendment whatsoever must be channeled through the legislative branch under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

It is this attitude that has left people not offering a lot of weight to the Constitution as far as the protection of their rights is concerned. And this is precisely why they have largely been left unaware of their fundamental rights.

However, clearly this is not a day of victory or celebration for most Pakistani people. To many of them, this is just another piece of daily news. Inconsequential, because they know that the military will ultimately come to the rescue of the General.

Probably the real historic day would only arrive when the people of Pakistan actually start believing in their fundamental rights as given in the Constitution. And standing up for them too.

But it’s encouraging to see that we are making progress.

A Brave Beginning At Least…

November 25, 2010 was a historic day in the history of legislation in Pakistan. One of the more sensible MPs finally took the initiative of proposing amendments in the Blasphemy Laws of the country. It was none other than Sherry Rehman who took the brave initiative after contributing a brilliant article to the Express Tribune.

I congratulate Sherry Rehman for breaking the ice and touching this “taboo subject”. She surely deserves a pat on the back and this is what PPP should be doing. The Governor of the Punjab, Salmaan Taseer also deserves applause for his efforts after Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, was  sentenced to death for blasphemy by a local civil magistrate. I am only disappointed that there is silence from other political parties like MQM, ANP and PML-Q, and also PML-N. I even expect some sense from the JUI-F and the JI.

While I completely agree with the opinion in the legal circles that the President is talking about using his right of pardon prematurely, since the case can move on to the higher courts, and with the decision of the LHC of directing the President to abstain from using the right until the hearing of the petition against it, I was really disappointed to learn that some lawyers maintained that the law did not permit the President to pardon the person who had allegedly committed a blasphemy because it did not pertain to the crimes against the State, and pertained to a crime against Allah and His Prophet. If that is our law, we need to change it.

But the real divide is this.  The secular school of thought maintains that the blasphemy laws should be repealed because it is not an offense in the first place, at least not worthy of a death sentence, if any at all. The right wing, in this case, the religious political parties representing Islam, think that the blasphemy law is more like an article of faith and that any amendments are unacceptable. Though mentioning this was totally unnecessary, but anyway.

While both the groups keep on loathing each other and have no patience to listen to and appreciate each other’s viewpoint, we will not be able to move a single inch towards making any progress in this regard. As a matter of principle, I oppose any blasphemy laws, but since it concerns the feelings of such a large majority of population, I would at least go for softening the “punishment” instead of letting the brutal death penalty stand, which is why I think this bill is important.

We should actually be starting a debate about abolishing the death penalty altogether, or minimize its implementation in the courts. We should at least make the judges think twice, or thrice, before inking such a verdict, especially when it is a blasphemy that you can never prove in the court of law unless it is published in some way, apart from the account of witnesses.

You can simply make the religious groups understand why death in general, and in the case of Asia Bibi in particular, should not be enforced by telling them what Prophet Muhammad would have done in this regard. Rauf Klasra wrote a very good piece on that in Urdu, which you could read to get a very good idea about that viewpoint. We must upkeep the basic human rights in any case and supersede any other laws which lead to their violation.

Courtesy: Reuters

While I cannot help but think about the poor and innocent children of Asia Bibi who are anxiously waiting for their mother to return to them, I can never imagine, as far my understanding of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet is concerned, that the Prophet would have meant any harm to the woman in the first place. It was contrary to his values, since he even pardoned Hind, the wife of Abu Sufian, a Meccan Lord, who had murdered his uncle Hamza in the most brutal manner.

Had Prophet Muhammad been a man who approved of murder, violence and killings, then he would have done otherwise, and there are countless other examples, such as the Amnesty on the Conquest of Mecca. And yes, I think that despite those Islamic laws of stoning to death on adultery, the conditions of the enforcement of which are actually so strict, that it is near impossible that anyone could be condemned to death for that offense, let alone approving of it.

Unfortunately, the religious groups are not able to understand this simple fact due to the overzealous nature of their politics. Supporting death for committing blasphemy is clearly a political matter instead of a religious one, and I have reasons to believe that the leaders and scholars who understand Islam know it themselves. Whether they want to go for the change or not is another matter.

But don’t forget, they are not the only ones to be blamed for this. The supposedly sensible politicians and the elements in the civil, judicial and military bureaucracy have also played their due role in the creation and approval of these laws. They did not consider the possibility that these laws could possibly be misused, as they are misused most of the time.

Not only the “minorities” or the non-Muslims in Pakistan are at risk due to the abuse of the law, but even Muslims themselves are not safe from it. You could accuse anyone of committing a blasphemy that you hold a grudge against and the crowds would rage and come roaring to get that person. The people need to develop some patience, and both the secular and religious groups need to come together to discuss the issue to reach a sensible solution.

I know that even if we get the text book right, vigilante violence is a problem that will remain very much there as far as the accusations of blasphemy are concerned, but it is important to get the textbook right. That is why I advocate a Secular Constitution for Pakistan. However, as far as making the general public realize is concerned, only Humanitarian Education is a solution, which is unfortunately, not a priority at all in the plans of the Government of Pakistan.

The secular circles of the country should be happy that someone at least made a start towards bringing an amendment to the law, something which people were even afraid to talk about earlier. I am anxiously waiting to see how the MPs vote on this, especially the members of the PPP, the MQM and the ANP, you know, the supposed secular political parties in Pakistan.

 

Maybe someday this could possibly lead to the abrogation of these laws.

Why Oh Why? – PPP, Please Get Rid of Abdul Qayyum Jatoi

Politicians in Pakistan have been known for their corruption and loose morals, but no one comes even close to Abdul Qayyum Jatoi of Pakistan People’s Party, who just resigned, correction, was rather sacked, from the position of Federal Minister of Defense Production and is MP from Muzaffargarh, Punjab. He has completely different ideas altogether when it comes to politics, morality and the responsibility of public office. Surely he has revolutionized the concept of equality and equal opportunity with his brilliant ideas. He is probably the only politician, and also the only person in the world, who openly approves of corruption, calls it the right of politicians and believes that everyone should have an equal opportunity for corruption.

Oh well, at least he is honest. Take a look for yourself.

On a TV Talk Show

Recent Press Conference in Quetta

His recent Press Conference in Quetta eventually got him into trouble. Again he shamelessly trumpeted his just ideals of equality that everyone should have an equal right to corruption, which clearly shows that he cares for everyone. Not only that, but he also criticized the Army and the Judiciary to an extent which got the Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani a bit agitated. He should have taken action when he made that irresponsible and insane remark for a figure holding a public office on that TV show, but at last, he made the right move.

He maintained that he made the remark in “personal capacity”. How absurd! Mr. Jatoi, I think you are a leader (unfortunately) and when you make a remark in a public press conference, I don’t think it is considered to be a “personal remark” for which you should not be held accountable, especially when you are serving in public office. First you need some basic lessons in leadership and politics, and only then should you be  allowed to run in elections.

But then again, he is not the only Pakistani politician who needs such a lesson. This clearly speaks volumes about the politics in Pakistan. It does not really need a lot of elaboration.

Jatoi was summoned by the Prime Minister and was asked to explain his remarks. On his failure to satisfy the Prime Minister, he was asked to step down from the position of Federal Minister for Defense Production. Mr. Gilani is one of the most generous souls in the country. Had I been the Prime Minister, not only would I have asked for his resignation from the National Assembly, which is the House of Representatives in Pakistan, but would have also recommended to the Party Leader to kick out this ridiculous criminal from the party.

I think Mr. President needs to take some action as well as the Party Leader, because as far as I know, he has been silent over the matter. I don’t want to be discussing party politics here, but speaking impartially, Pakistan People’s Party, founded by a visionary like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, needs to decide whether it is appropriate to associate themselves with people like Jatoi. Because if they don’t mind, the party will soon be recognized as a symbol of political corruption in Pakistan, if it isn’t already.

At least the people of Pakistan should make up their minds clearly about it. Vote for any party you consider appropriate, but don’t vote for criminals and morally corrupt people like Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, or the country will never progress and improve from its current state of shambles. I am sorry to say this but if anyone votes for Abdul Qayyum Jatoi after all this, I will have to deduce that either that person is not sane, or is a traitor who deliberately wants to destroy Pakistan.