Pakistani Deep State Attacks, Robs Human Rights Writer

In most countries, the state machinery exists to protect individuals and their rights. Not in Pakistan.

 

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) at 8:45 pm on the night of April 19 “two armed men broke into the house of Ms Maryam Hasan, editor of HRCP’s annual report, and took away her laptop, two hard drives and two mobile phones, as well as some jewelry and cash. They told Ms Hasan, who lives alone, that they had also come the day before, but not committed burglary since she had not been at home. They questioned Ms Hasan about her professional engagements and intimidated her in a roundabout manner, finally leaving at 10.00 PM.”

 

The HRCP condemned this burglary-style raid on the hone of the editor of its State of Human Rights report, which was launched just two days earlier on 16 April. Further in a statement the HRCP stated that it “‘suspects that the two suave raiders were no ordinary thieves and calls on the Government of Punjab to apprehend the culprits and establish their identity. HRCP will hold the provincial authorities responsible for any attempt by state or non-state actors to harass any persons associated with the Commission.”

Mainstream Media Blackout of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement

Time and time again non-Punjabi Pakistanis have always felt they were treated as second class citizens. When something happens in Punjab, everyone including the media pays attention but when something happens in another part of the country it does not matter. Nothing exemplifies this better than then the media ignoring the plight of the Baluch and the Pashtuns. The four month old Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) protest march has been ignored by the mainstream media.

 

The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement started in 2014, initially as an initiative to clear land mines in the border areas but in January 2018 it turned into a demand for justice after the extrajudicial killing by police force in Karachi of a young Pashtun, Naqeebullah Mehsud.

 

According to a report in the German paper Deutsche Welle, PTM is a secular movement, led by young activist Manzoor Pashteen, that “has struck a chord with thousands of Pashtuns, who say “enough is enough.” The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Movement for the Protection of Pashtuns, PTM) blames both the Pakistani military and Islamists for the destruction in their region. Essentially an anti-war campaign, the PTM sprang up as a result of the killing of the 27-year-old Naqeebullah Masood, who was killed by police in the southern city of Karachi on January 20. The authorities claimed Masood had links with militants, a charge his family and civil society activists deny. Rights groups say that thousands of Pashtun youths have been murdered or abducted by security agencies in the past decades on unproven terrorism charges. State authorities use the pretext of war on terrorism to persecute Pashtuns, they say. Over the years, Pashtuns have been branded as Islamists, or militants, due to the fact that the Taliban are also a Pashtun-dominated outfit, and because the radicalism in the country’s northern areas has spiked over the years as a result of decades-long wars.”

 

According to Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party The PTM “demands that all ‘missing’ Pashtuns should be produced before the court of law. It demands that all landmines in the northwestern tribal areas be cleared and the army stops demolishing Pashtuns’ houses on suspicion of militant links,” Kakar told DW. “The [Pashtun] anger had been simmering for years. If it wasn’t Pashteen, someone else would have started the movement,” Kakar said. “Mainstream Pashtun parties have an organizational structure and a political manifesto; the PTM doesn’t,” underlined Kakar, who admits that Pakistan’s political parties are fearful of this new movement in a strategically important province. “Pashtun nationalist parties usually do not want to offend the military because it could affect their political role. But Pashteen’s claim to fame is that unlike other politicians he is clear about what he wants,” Kakar said.”

 

And yet as an Editorial in Daily Times stated the media blackout of the PTM’s rally “will be remembered for its betrayal of all the principles that underlie the profession of journalism. None of the channels did justice, in their coverage, to the largest political gathering of the day held by the Pushtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). While live coverage was given to much smaller rallies of the PTI and the PPP as well as the youth convention of an extreme right-wing party that is at the very verge of oblivion, the largest political movement to have emerged in the country after the 2007-08 lawyers’ movement was blacked out. This must stay with the country’s media as an embarrassment and should make media professionals, as a collective, do some soul searching about their profession. PTM’s Sunday rally was without a doubt the biggest political show in the city of Peshawar in recent history. When so many Pakistanis gather in a public arena and demand nothing more than a right to dignified existence, our state institutions must understand that something must have been terribly wrong with their policies vis-à-vis the region. Instead of going on the defensive, the institutions will do well to listen patiently to the grievances of these persecuted and war-torn citizens of the republic. The protesters have been explaining their demands again and again, and the authorities have yet to meet them even half way through. Rao Anwar is under arrest and faces prosecution of Naqeebullah Mehsud’s murder. But that is not the only crime he has been accused of. A good faith effort from the state will require a thorough investigation of all charges of extrajudicial murder against him and other officials. And Anwar is just the tip of the iceberg Manzoor Pashteen and his colleagues in PTM have pointed towards. Their complaints about enforced disappearances need to be addressed by ensuring safe return of those disappeared and action against those involved in the matter. Our institutions must prove, and do so quickly, that they are concerned about excesses committed by security personnel that have been highlighted by the PTM. Unfortunately, the pace at which the authorities are proceeding so far suggests otherwise. This must be addressed urgently, if Pakistan is to sustain gains made from the continuity of the democratic process in the last decade.”

Has Gen. Bajwa initiated ‘Operation Radd ul Media’ ?

There are widespread reports of Pakistan’s most watched TV news channel Geo being shut down in most parts of the country. Unlike others, Geo has refused to join the anti-civilian rule and anti-democracy propaganda currently common on Pakistan TV channels. But who can make hundreds of cable TV distributors jettison the most watched news channel with the flick of a finger?

This is the translation of the above

TV anchor Kamran Khan says: “These days media is discussing the ‘Bajwa Doctrine.’ This is based on the ideas articulated by COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa in a briefing of three dozen media personalities in Rawalpindi. He spoke on the economy, foreign policy, judiciary, and even the size of Nawaz Sharif’s recent rallies. He declared a major media group as subversive.”

Other reports inform us that Gen Bajwa went to the extent of saying that he had ordered the closing down of Geo TV because he considered the Jang-Geo media group anti-army and subversive. If this is true, it is very troubling. It is not the Pakistan army’s job to sit in judgment in the patriotism of the media and to shut down ‘offensive’ media outlets.

Time to Think about Child Abuse, not just clamor for Public Hangings

The brutal rape and murder of an 8-year old have led to demands for public hanging of killers and rapists as if that is the solution to such crimes. If military courts are the answer to terrorism, and lynching the answer to blasphemy then surely public hanging will help cleanse Pakistani society.

No one wants to stop and think that according to reports by Pakistani civil society organizations, on average 11 children were abused per day. In 2016, 4139 cases of sexual abuse were reported by Pakistan’s newspapers, a ten percent increase over 2015. And this is only those that were reported! And of course, no wants to discuss the root causes of these crimes.

Instead as Cyril Almeida points out the ‘outrage machine’ is “on fire and in overdrive.” And so “the rage — total rage — once activated was only going to go in ever more dangerous, more unhinged directions. APS brought hangings back. So this time it had to be a hanging plus. Hang him in the street outside her home. Hang him in a public square. The biggest one you can find. Hang him in a stadium. The biggest one you can find. Build a new stadium if there isn’t one big enough.”

Raza Rumi, asks why “a tragedy that should have been a wake up call for the country and how we raise children at homes, schools and madaris” has instead “turned into a sordid game for political elites and a rating contest for mainstream electronic media. Once again, a historic opportunity for reform has been squandered.”

Here is more from Rumi’s piece

“When Zainab’s story came into public light, every Pakistani was horrified especially those who are parenting young children. That sexual abuse of children is a part of people’s lives came as an ugly reminder. Celebrities opened up in public arenas recounting the horrors of being abused as children. Earlier, the Kasur child pornography scandal shook the public in a similar fashion but nothing came out of it in terms of setting things right. One hoped that with the outrage and protest over Zainab’s murder things would turn out to be different. But they didn’t.”

“From 2011 to 2016 a total of 19,508 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the country. This is where the media could have played a constructive role. Instead, mainstream media covered the Zainab story while ignoring all ethics of journalism. Zainab’s parents were blamed for their negligence, his brother was scolded for not protecting his sister and the list goes on. A bereaved family found itself in the midst of rating sharks coping with an uninvited onslaught. The images of dead Zainab have only brutalised us and not helped the cause for child protection.”

 

‘Ganging up on Democracy in Pakistan, Again’

Democracy once again appears to be under threat in Pakistan with a politician who seeks to become Prime Minister using abusive language against parliamentary institutions, the dismissal of the chief minister of Baluchistan, the threat of another rally with cleric Tahir ul Qadri putting together another loose coalition. This is in addition to Pakistan-US relations being under increasing stress, civil-military relations at their worst and the continued radicalization of Pakistani society.

The dismissal of an elected chief minister in Balochistan and his replacement with someone who secured less than 600 votes in the last general election is a reflection of the troubles facing Pakistan.

In a scathing editorial The Friday Times stated: “If the strategic importance of the province to the Miltablishment is obvious, so too is its tactical relevance in the current political situation. If the PMLN is to be stopped from improving its position in the Senate so that Nawaz Sharif cannot constitutionally make a comeback, then something must be done to stop the Senate elections from taking place in March before the next general elections are held some months hence. One way to do that is to precipitate a political crisis in which at least two provincial assemblies – Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – are dissolved, posing a constitutional challenge to holding the Senate elections on time. If necessary, this may be followed by mass resignations from the National Assembly of PTI, PMLQ, PPP, MQM and assorted groups currently in the fold of the Militablishment – including a significant chunk of PMLN “sleepers”— that compels a dissolution of parliament and the installation of an interim federal government cobbled by the Election Commission and Supreme Court of Pakistan. Such an interim government could stretch for months on end until the latest Census results have been collated and constituency delimitation concluded in a “satisfactory” manner. During this period, further political engineering can take place to ensure “suitable” results — a political dispensation that excludes the person of Nawaz Sharif from power (by getting NAB courts to sentence him for corruption) and also denies any political party an outright majority in parliament that might foolishly embolden it to challenge the political hegemony of the Miltablishment, a mistake that both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif respectively made in office and for which they are still paying the price.”

Similarly the Lahore Mall rally of PTI, PPP and Tahir ul Qadri’s PAT was “only meant to confirm the pledge of the disparate parties to stand together for the final Heave-Ho when the signal is received rather than immediately go for the Punjab government’s jugular. Balochistan, KP and the opposition parties are now all primed for the coup de grace. They are simply waiting for a nod from the Miltablishment to trigger the beginning of the end of the current political dispensation led by the PMLN.”

According to Cyril Almeida in Dawn the reason for all this is the belief “The people can’t be trusted to deliver the right result and massaging the process takes a bunch of doing.” Hence “IF you think you’re crazy and imagining things, you’re not. A moment of stability quickly yields to instability and confusion and the threat of chaos. But there’s a pattern all right. Nawaz and Maryam go quiet, the system goes quiet. Nawaz and Maryam switch the megaphone back on, the system roars back. This time it may be for good.”