Hard Facts on CPEC, not Propaganda Videos

When governments are concerned about reality or hard facts they resort to gimmicks. Most pragmatic people today agree that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is not the panacea it was promised to be and that Pakistan may end up becoming so deep in China’s debt that it will face long term consequences very few people have thought through. This is why for the last year the government appears to be encouraging gimmicks on youtube and social media.
 
Last April 2017 many of us viewed an advertisement by Shan Foods for their premade biryani masala mix in which a young Chinese woman, residing in Lahore with her husband who works for a Chinese company that is part of CPEC, uses the masala to prepare biryani and thus build a bond with her Pakistani neighbors. The advertisement went viral serving the government’s purpose of focusing on the ‘feel good’ rather than the reality.
 
The reality about CPEC was revealed in Dawn the following month, May 2017. As per Dawn’s report “The plan lays out in detail what Chinese intentions and priorities are in Pakistan for the next decade and a half, details that have not been discussed in public thus far. The plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy as well as its society by Chinese enterprises and culture. Its scope has no precedent in Pakistan’s history in terms of how far it opens up the domestic economy to participation by foreign enterprises.”
 
Now we hear of news reports that Chinese and Pakistani filmmakers will cooperate in scriptwriting, shooting, post-production, and screening of “a movie showcasing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to highlight the “intimate friendship” of the people from the two countries. The movie named “The Journey” will tell stories of Chinese businesses participating in the construction of the corridor.”  
 
Xinhua quoted Wang Haiping, director of the scriptwriting committee of the China Television Artists Association at the first SCO festival as saying “The intimate friendship of the people from the two countries will be highlighted in the movie.” The shooting for the film is likely to start in early 2019.

Pakistan’s Media is no longer free

Close on the heels of Amnesty International’s report that the Pakistani deep state has hacked into the accounts of human rights activists and reports by both Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters without borders (RSF) on how the Pakistani security establishment intimidates journalists, comes a report by the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for media freedom, that was founded in 1950.
 
The IPI sent letters to Pakistan’s caretaker central and provincial governments, the Chief Justice, the Chief Election Commissioner Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza and Chairman of the Senate highlighting “a number of serious threats to press freedom ahead of the country’s July 25 elections, including the physical intimidation, abduction and torture of dissenting journalists; the forcible denial of the public’s right to access independent newspapers through the widespread disruption of newspaper distribution; and the effective blockading of independent channel broadcasts to television audiences.”
 
According to the letter written by IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi “These actions deny the public’s fundamental right to receive news and information and to participate in informed debate about matters of public interest, in particular the military’s role in civilian affairs. Such a climate is inimical to both democracy and the free flow of information necessary to this upcoming election”, Trionfi wrote. “IPI is worried that the continued persecution of the independent media is designed to convey a clear message: that any criticism of the military’s involvement in civilian affairs will have dire consequences for the survival of an independent press in Pakistan. Unless rigorous measures are taken to halt further attempts to influence reporting in the media, and to ensure that newspapers are allowed to publish freely, and television channels are allowed to broadcast in Pakistan without any further harassment, doubts may be cast on the credibility of the upcoming elections.”
 
Trionfi’s letter “highlighted a number of troubling incidents, which she said must be viewed against the backdrop of the upcoming elections. According to media reports, on June 6, a senior woman journalist, Gul Bokhari, from the Nawai Waqt/Nation Group, was abducted for several hours, late at night, while on her way to work. The same night, another broadcast journalist, Asad Kharal, was physically assaulted in Lahore. Additionally, the director general of the Armed forces’ Inter-Services Public Relations has reportedly produced a list of prominent journalists and activists that described them as “anti-state elements”. Numerous newspaper editors have been forced to drop dissenting columns from newspapers, leading some columnists to post their uncensored columns on social media platforms.”
 
Trionfi said IPI “was greatly concerned that the Pakistani military appeared to be increasing pressure on the country’s media so as to impose a narrative of its own choosing with relation to its involvement in civilian affairs. Trionfi added that she was troubled to see that, as part of this recent escalation, the military had publicly castigated independent media as a threat to national security, as a consequence of which dissenting journalists have been targeted on social media and threatened with bodily harm.”

Will UK Courts Stop Pakistan Media’s ‘Traitor’ Propaganda Against Dissidents?

For years Pakistan’s establishment and its favoured media have run campaigns of intimidation against dissidents by describing them as ‘traitors’ or circulating other unsavory allegations against them. Pakistan’s spineless judiciary has never implemented the country’s libel and defamation laws effectively. In case of allegations backed by the establishment/army/ISI, the Pakistani Supreme Court has inverted the principle that accusers must prove their accusation to ‘the accused must prove their innocence.’

All that has been an insurmountable hurdle but the success of Jang/Geo Group’s Mir Shakil ur Rehman in forcing the shutting down of ARY News in the UK has opened a path for Pakistani dissidents to at least fight back.

ARY called Mir Shakil an Indian agents on its shows and the poor man could do nothing about it in Pakistan. He then realized that ARY also runs in UK and decided to approach the British Office of Communications –an arbiter of fairness in media – and also to demand reparations through British courts. He won.

ARY News decided to declare bankruptcy in U.K. and shut its operations there. Its programs are now shown in UK under the banner of ‘New Vision Limited.’ As The Guardian noted, the case put Pakistan’s media on notice.

 

 

 

Another web based news source, Eurasia Future, pulled down an article against Mir Shakil written by a Pakistani after being threatened with defamation action. It also had to run an apology.

 

 

 

 

Now it seems that former ambassador and author Husain Haqqani has decided to take the same road.

Called all sorts of names on Pakistani TV channels, Haqqani can do little in Pakistan to stop his defamation because the law in Pakistan is subject to the whims of the ‘patriotic’ establishment. But Haqqani could, like Mir Shakil, demand of all media outlets that also operate in UK (or elsewhere) to prove their allegations.

We know how difficult it is to prove allegations when the judges are not already in one’s pocket. That is why Haqqani has never been put on trial in Pakistan for any crime and even First Information Reports (FIRs) against him have only been registered within the last few months, seven years after his resignation as ambassador.

His threat already resulted in Global Village Space pulling down an article by well-known Haqqaniphobe, Capt (retd.) Syed Haider Raza Mehdi within hours of putting it up.

The strategy of suing over defamatory material under the laws of other countries will not stop habitual slanderers and abusers in Pakistan. But it will incur a cost for those in Pakistani media who want to be read or watched outside Pakistan too. It could also result in financial loss like the one incurred by ARY.

Pakistani media owners are in the business for making money. They are unlikely to want to lose the UK market. Unless, of course, the establishment that provokes them to abuse dissidents is willing to spend more money to subsidize its abuse.

PPP’s Babar Speaks of ‘Creeping Coup,’ something his Bosses Won’t Talk About

In the last year there have been a number of analysts who have voiced their fear of a silent coup inside Pakistan: a coup in which the deep state has solidified its power, reduce the civilian government to a puppet and ensured there is no dissent from any segment of society.

 

At a recent seminar former senator and PPP leader PPP leader Farhatullah Babar spoke of what he called a “creeping coup” that “has taken place against the authority of the civilian government. The coup has taken place very quietly before the election. It is different from the martial law of the past, with two resulting outcomes: the civilian government exists, but has no authority; press freedom exists, but journalists have no freedom. All media has been controlled, whether it is social media, print media or electronic media. It is all happening very quietly. The restrictions from the security establishment are the greatest. There are also restrictions from non-state actors and your rulers. The media is being attacked on all fronts.”

 The senator remarked that why is it that in Pakistan “the ‘Dawn leaks’ controversy” was viewed as “against national security.” Yet when “A British newspaper reported on a secret garrison meeting earlier this year, yet no one is speaking about it.” And “If I ask how a former army chief received 90 acres of land, a tweet will be published saying that I am trying to ruin civil-military ties.”

 He further remarked, “Institutions that announce without any investigation that a journalist has undermined national security should be strongly protested against, and they should be told that if the journalist has done anything wrong, then due legal process should be adopted against them.”

 Senator Babar called for “an international conference on the freedom of expression. Parliament should be asked to hold a public briefing on the matter, and those against whom allegations have been levelled should also attend the briefing. Political parties should, in addition to human rights agendas, present road maps for press freedom and protection of journalists.”

Pashtun Students Will Spend Eid in Prison over Imagined Sedition

At a time when the media is facing censorship and political parties are under pressure, it is horrifying to hear that Pashtun students who protested in Islamabad against the attack in Wana on June 3 violent attack against unarmed activists of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) have been imprisoned on charges of sedition and are in Adiala jail.

 According to data gathered by The Daily Times “15 of the 37 youngsters held at Adiala Jail on serious charges including sedition are enrolled in various graduate programmes at leading public-sector universities in the federal capital.” Most of these young people hail from Baluchistan and are enrolled either at Quaid e Azam or International Islamic University.

 They include “highly accomplished individuals like Habib Kakar, who hails from Loralai district of Balochistan and is an alumunus of the prestigous Fulbright scholarship programme of the United States Education Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP). Others hailing from Loralai are Niamatullah and Hameedullah. The former is pursuing a PhD programme at the QAU’s Physics Department on a merit scholarship. Hameedullah is enrolled in an MPhil programme at the university’s Pakistan Studies Centre. At least five students hail from Zhob district of Balochistan. Of these, Aimal Mandokhail, Kamran Khan, Zulqarnain Mandokhel, and Mustafiz Khan are pursuing their undergraduate degrees in law at IIU. Roohullah and Kamil Khan are studying for a masters degree in sociology at the IIU. Among the incarcerated students are Akbar Khan and M Ishfaq Khan from South Waziristan. They are law students at IIU. Ishtiaq Wazir of Bannu recently graduated from the IIU’s International Relations Department; Raqeeb ullah of Pishin is enrolled in OAU’s Environmental Sciences graduate programme, and Ziaul Islam of Quetta is a a student of BSc (Economics) programme at IIU.”

 According to the lawyers defending these students “Every Pakistani wants peace and prosperity in the country but every citizen has the right to criticise the policies of any state institution. There are dozens of institutions in the country facing criticism on a daily basis, will the police arrest everyone criticising any institution? Booking someone under section 124A (sedition) for chanting some slogans is strange. If someone challenges the state, say by demanding separation, then the police are well within their authority to book them for sedition, but there is no justification for using the section to curb criticism of ill-designed state policies.”