Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan is worse than Purana Pakistan. At least under previous civilian leaders, the Prime Minister had some say. Today, the Miltestablishment has complete control over everything from media to economy to foreign policy and of course domestic politics.
In a recent piece, Agha Haider Raza, a Pakistan-based commentator provides details of the censorship and clampdown on the media. “Khan’s government has been enforcing unprecedented restrictions on the media in Pakistan since coming to power last year. Under the watchful eye of the hyperactive miltablishment, the current civilian and military rulers have ushered in a new era of media management. While the civilian government utilizes the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to silence media houses, anchorpersons and journalists by sending them legal notices, the miltablishment utilizes the popular messenger service, WhatsApp, to impose directives. Military officers have been known to ring up journalists and media owners in the middle of the night, threatening them to alter media content and have it edited to their liking.”
In his piece “Pakistan Being Ruled With an Iron Fist,” Raza, says, “Not only are public rallies and interviews of political leaders blacked out, but leading journalists have been strictly ordered to pre-record their programs to ensure that content not suitable to the regime is broadcasted. Today, without any legal notice served, a private TV channel was forced to off-air the program of leading journalist Najam Sethi. Journalists have been pursued to a point where they have been pressurized to close down their twitter accounts in order to stop public rebuking of the PTI government. Newspapers have seen their distribution curtailed after criticizing the government. Recently, a demonstration was held by a union of journalists to protest the clamping down on the media space. Calls were immediately made to ensure that no cameras would be sent by TV channels cover the event.”
Further, “The censoring and harassment of the media by the current regime Pakistan is rather ironic given the fact that when in the opposition, Imran Khan and the miltablishment fully exploited the media space. Nawaz Sharif was barely into his third-term as prime minister when Khan besieged Islamabad by sitting atop a container in the red-zone and demanded Sharif’s resignation. Khan received non-stop live coverage for his 126-day sit-in. On many occasions, Khan himself has acknowledged that it was due to the electronic and social media in Pakistan, which gave him the political capital to secure the prime minister house. Unfortunate that once in power, Khan has sought ways to block and shut down social media sites to avoid criticism of his fledgling government. Pakistan’s military leadership has put all its eggs in the PTI basket and is working tirelessly, at home and abroad, to ensure that Imran Khan faces no impediments. The top leadership of opposition parties have already been put behind bars and placed in jails on un-proven charges.”
Finally, “In a recent meeting, Imran Khan had an attendance with the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa, Director General ISI, General Faiz Hameed and Director General ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor. One can only hope that they advised each other to focus more on governing and working towards strengthening the economy rather than having a dictatorial approach towards the media and opposition. In a now iconic photograph, former military dictator Pervez Musharraf is seen patting his brow as he faced the media in his final days of power. Imran Khan and the top brass would be wise to remember the photograph, realizing the pen will always be mightier than the sword.”