What ails Pakistan: Drift towards authoritarianism, enforced disappearances & shrinking freedom of speech

This is the second in our series on the SAATH Forum Conference on Pakistan that just concluded in Washington DC.

As we had mentioned, “prominent progressive thinkers and human rights defenders from Pakistan have expressed their grave concern over Pakistan’s drift towards authoritarianism and weakening of country’s civilian institutions as a consequence of systematic expansion of the military’s control over public policy. These views were expressed during a conference titled ‘Pakistan: After the Elections’, organised under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH) and hosted by Husain Haqqani, former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, and Dr Mohammad Taqi, a US-based senior columnist. More than two dozen Pakistani liberal, progressive, left-leaning public figures from around the world travelled to Washington DC for the moot.”

According to a report in The Daily Times, “The participants raised concern over the lack of credibility of the results of recent general elections in Pakistan, which they noted were ‘one of the most politically engineered elections’. In many ways, the participants noted, the election has compounded Pakistan’s existential challenges emanating from civil-military imbalance, extremism and militancy. During the discussion in the session titled ‘The Crisis of Naya Pakistan’, the participants said Pakistan had strayed further away from being an inclusive, democratic and peaceful polity in 2018 and that its economy was sinking, the opposition was being politically targeted, the media was facing unprecedented curbs and state institutions like the judiciary stood seriously compromised.”

Further, “The participants unequivocally supported the demands made by the Pashtun Tahffuz Movement (PTM) and by the parents of the slain innocent children in the tragic and barbarous attack on the Army Public School in 2014, for making public the findings of the judicial inquiry commission formed to investigate the carnage. They lamented that after almost a year of the extrajudicial killing of Naquibullah Mehsud, the young Pashtun resident of Karachi, the state was still unable to provide justice to his family.”

Furthermore, “Among the major issues discussed during the moot were enforced disappearances of Pashtun, Baloch and Sindhi nationalists, shrinking freedom of expression and speech in Pakistan, judicial overreach and resultant weakening of the democratic institutions, the trends of human rights violations in 2018, results of military operations in the Pashtun belt, the plight of the people of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the worrying signals coming from some members of federal cabinet about the possible roll back of the 18th constitutional amendment. The participants reiterated that they would actively become part of the mass movement if the government initiates any such step. The 18th constitutional amendment was passed unanimously in 2010 by the parliament of Pakistan and has ensured provincial autonomy and devolution of powers and resources to the provinces.”

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