Killing the messenger

Establishment’s War against Dissent is Hurting, not aiding Pakistan

By Shaista Sindhu

Pakistan’s reputation for scuttling dissent by force is growing. Although the establishment routinely denies abduction and enforced disappearances of journalists and bloggers, a consistent pattern is visible. The abducted individuals tell a similar story and eye-witness accounts all point the finger at the country’s ubiquitous intelligence agencies.

“Namaloom Afraad” or ‘unidentified individuals’ has become a sad joke about how the intelligence services, especially the notorious ISI, now act as Pakistan’s thought police. Law enforcement never finds the people involved in such incidents, ranging from the recent disappearances of bloggers to the killing of journalist Saleem Shehzad in 2011 to the latest round of ‘teaching’ dissidents a lesson.

But scaring, beating, or killing people who disagree with the establishment’s worldview or question its propaganda is hardly a recipe for making Pakistan better. Killing the messenger does not change the message. Pakistan continues to lose friends and influence around the world, our passport remains one the world’s worst passports, our economic rankings continue to tank.

On Friday October 27, The News reporter Ahmed Noorani suffered grievous injuries from an assault by the identifiable-by-association unidentified assailants in Islamabad’s Zero Point area.

According to the FIR filed by Noorani’s driver, Mumtaz the two of them “were intercepted by six assailants on motorcycles, two of which did not have number plates. The driver said in the FIR that two of the assailants had grabbed him and attacked him with knives, while four assailants pulled Noorani out of the car. The assailants then attacked Noorani in the same manner.”

The attack has earned Pakistan a bad name, once again. This is not the first time that a journalist in Pakistan has been attacked. Pakistan ranks 139 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2017, making it one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) since 1992, 60 journalists have been killed in Pakistan for doing their work,

According to the New York Times Mr Noorani was “well known for his critical views of Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence agencies” and the “brazen, daylight attack” has “sent a chill through the country’s community of journalists.”

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Pakistan ranks fourth on the list of deadliest countries for journalists after Mexico, Philippines and Iraq. Since 2005, over 106 journalists have been killed in Pakistan according to the IFJ report, with almost one journalist killed every two months.

The IJF says that “The atmosphere of lawlessness in Pakistan has not only contributed to more attacks on journalists but also forced many journalists to self-censor in order to survive. In many cases, there were reports suspecting Pakistan’s intelligence services’ involvement but the government has failed to investigate these cases and punish the murderers. With only three verdicts and one case in the court in more than 100 killings since 2005, impunity in Pakistan is at its worst.”

So, Pakistan gets recognition for impunity of its intelligence agencies, the negatives of Pakistan do not change by silencing those who highlight them, and the mistreatment of bloggers and journalists does not completely silence dissent any way. Why continue with the madness then?

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