Media Under Attack as Pakistan Establishment Fears Truth’

Pakistan has always been one of the toughest countries to be a journalist. However, in recent months, it appears that the Pakistani establishment seeks to “shackle” the media as never before.

According to a report in RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty): “free media is now being shackled like never before, as veteran reporters have been leaving after experiencing threats, the nation’s most popular TV station was forced off the air, and nationwide distribution of Pakistan’s oldest newspaper has been halted.”

Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui had to flee the country and is currently living in Paris. He “left Pakistan in January, shortly after armed men beat, threatened, and attempted to kidnap him in broad daylight as he took a taxi to the airport in the capital, Islamabad. “The army and intelligence agencies were threatening me and I suspect the people who tried to kidnap me were from the army,” says Siddiqui, speaking to RFE/RL from Paris, where he has relocated. “They do not like investigative reporting that uncovers the wrongdoings of those institutions.”

Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui talks to reporters after being assaulted by armed men in Islamabad on January 10. A well-known reporter, the 33-year-old’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and other Western media outlets. In 2014, he was awarded the Albert Londres Prix award, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for his coverage of Pakistan. The Islamabad bureau chief for India’s World Is One News channel, Siddiqui says he was questioned and warned by the army after a 2015 article he wrote for The New York Times about torture and abuse at army-run detention centers. He followed that up with another critical story about the army confiscating land from farmers for a military-owned housing scheme. He says he was warned by intelligence officers that he was “writing against the country’s interests and we will make a fake drugs case against you.”

The distribution of Pakistan’s oldest newspaper, founded by Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Dawn, “has been disrupted across most of the country. The disruption came days after Dawn published an interview with ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in which the former premier criticized the army and alleged it was backing militants who carried out the deadly attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.”

Further, “On April 1, Geo TV, part of Pakistan’s largest commercial media group, Jang, was taken off the air in many parts of the country. The ban only ended a month later after talks between the military and the network’s chiefs, who reportedly pledged to make sure the network’s coverage does not cross the military’s line.”

Finally, “prominent Pakistani columnists have had articles rejected by news outlets. Pakistani journalist Syed Talat Hussain wrote on Twitter on May 28 that his regular column was rejected for its content. Pakistani writers have also seen the killing of articles that cover antigovernment protests by the Pashtun ethnic minority in which the army has been accused of forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and discrimination. Journalist Mosharraf Zaidi said on April 17 that his story about the Pashtun Protection Movement was rejected.”

Bugti’s Support for Pakistan Democracy Opens Doors for Balochistan

The chief of Balochistan Republican Party (BRP), Brahumdagh Bugti, represents a voice of reason among Baloch nationalists who have borne the brunt of the worst atrocities by Pakistani authorities. But unlike some of them, he seems unwilling to close all doors for politics and a political settlement. After all, the Baloch are relatively in few numbers and have waged a struggle for their human rights and right of self-determination for several decades. But their courage notwithstanding, the Baloch cannot succeed by armed struggle. They will eventually need a political settlement that recognizes their national rights.

Recently, Bugti tweeted:

Some Baloch nationalists misread that tweet as support for one of the many Punjabi political actors that have condoned or ignored the injustices against the people of Balochistan. In fact, it should be seen as a sensible political move to expand the circle of friends within Pakistan for the Baloch people.

The most unreasonable stance against the Baloch has been adopted by Pakistan’s establishment, which has periodically waged war against the Baloch. General Pervez Musharraf killed Nawab Akbar Bugti and proudly proclaimed the end of Baloch resistance and Baloch nationalism. Since then, the Baloch have proved him wrong by resisting centralized control over their historic homeland.

The establishment has retaliated by completely taking over Balochistan’s political process, installing puppets in the provincial government and taking away any semblance of real Baloch representation in the government. Human Rights violation in Balochistan are rampant, forcing many Baloch leaders into exile or driving them underground. Those supporting the Baloch are dismissed as foreign agents.

Still, there are many Pakistanis committed to democracy and human rights who speak out boldly for the Baloch. Although those Pakistani politicians who have wielded power in recent years have done little to stand by the Baloch people, it is in the interest of the Baloch struggle that the Baloch seek support from any politician who confronts the Pakistani establishment. It is in this context that Brahumdagh Bugti’s acknowledgement of Nawaz Sharif’s recent anti-establishment stance should be seen.

No Baloch or supporter of Baloch rights can condone the Pakistani politicians’ tendency to ignore the Baloch. But we can all appreciate efforts to expand the circle of friends of the Baloch people from among opponents of Pakistan’s establishment.

ISI’s fake news ops get push back: Jang Geo group gets apology over false Cambridge Analytica allegations

It seems that the business of fake news is becoming less easy even though it has not come to an end. Just last month we at NP exposed Global Village Space as a fake news website (Why is a fauji propaganda site registered to Moeed Pirzada?)  Umer Ali, a Pakistani investigative reporter, exposed Eurasia Futures as a fake news website (Has Fake News in Pakistan Found Russian Allies?)

In 2017 we spoke about how the World was Cracking Down On Fake News but that Pakistan’s Media was At Serious Risk and on Pakistan’s addiction to Fake news

Both these websites Eurasiafuture.com and Global Village Space have now been taken to the cleaners.

Eurasiafuture.com and its website director Adam Garrie who alleged that Geo and Jang Group Editor in Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had links with Cambridge Analytica have now issued apologies, retracted their allegations and issued an undertaking that they will not repeat any false allegations ever again.

In their articles these fake news websites had alleged “that Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, in connivance with Nawaz Sharif, built a narrative for Greater Punjab. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was accused of stepping up Pashtun movement and also put, through fake news, blame of Mumabi attacks on Pakistan. According to these articles, patriotic circles as well as some quarters of the Pak army accuse Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and Jang/Geo group of being foreign agents and promoting Western agenda in Pakistan. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was termed “media godfather” in these articles. It was also alleged that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had admitted to having campaigned against the judiciary and institutions. It was also alleged that the government advertisements are distributed through Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA). Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was also accused of openly conspiring against Axact channels with the help of Nawaz Sharif. It was alleged that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman used his influence on the government machinery to block the pro-state narrative of Axact channels. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was also accused of spreading false narrative against Axact channels. It was further alleged that Nawaz Sharif had given Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman media publicity contract, and the latter was behind every political success of the former.”

In his apology Adam Garrie stated: “I requested the author of the Articles Mr Tayyab Baloch to provide any evidence to substantiate the serious and defamatory allegations made in the Articles against Mr Mir Shakil ur Rahman and/or Jang Group. Mr Tayyab Baloch refused and therefore could not and did not provide any such proof and so I have concluded that there was and is no evidence and that each the allegations made in the Articles against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or the Jang Group were wholly false, fabricated, malicious and highly defamatory of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or Jang Group. I have also investigated each of the allegations made in the Articles and found them to be completely false, malicious and fabricated. By way of example only and to illustrate this, I found no evidence whatsoever to connect Cambridge Analytica with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Jang Group or his media conglomerate, nor is there any link of international funding of his media outlets to support any international political propaganda. Given the above I therefore consider it appropriate to make this retraction and unreserved apology to Mr Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Geo TV and the Jang Group. I hereby irrevocably, completely and unreservedly retract and revoke each and every allegation made against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or Geo TV and/or the Jang Group in the Articles as such allegations were and are wholly false, malicious, fabricated and highly defamatory.”

Further this apology by Eurasiafuture.com director will remain on the website for three months to “explain my feelings as how I felt betrayed and how I betrayed the trust of my readers which of course I regret deeply. I have written to others who lifted the same defamatory articles from my website and published them on their pages, it’s in no one’s interest to repeat these lies.”

Gilgit Balistan Order 2018 leaves its people as lesser citizens of Pakistan

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are Pakistanis and deserve the right to be treated as full citizens of Pakistan. It is in May 2018 that FATA has finally been made a part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Gilgit-Baltistan also deserves its rightful place.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has come out strongly against the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Order 2018 reiterating that the people of GB must be treated at par with the citizens of other provinces for any reforms to be meaningful.

A statement by HRCP noted: “In claiming to grant the people of GB their fundamental freedoms, the GB Order has clipped their right to freedom of association and expression. It has denied any Gilgit-Baltistani the right to become a chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court or to have any say in internal security. Above all, it has disregarded people’s needs despite continual public pressure in GB to address their problems fairly and in accordance with local aspirations. The continuing imprisonment of Baba Jan and his comrades for having stood up for their fundamental rights is a sore case in point. There is nothing in the GB Order to protect others like Baba Jan in the future.”

Further, “The people of Gilgit-Baltistan deserve nothing less than to enjoy the same rights as other citizens of Pakistan. Under the country’s Constitution, the GB people’s ‘loyalty’ is to the state, not to the GB Order itself or, by extension, to the head of government. That the Order gives the Prime Minister extraordinary powers with respect to the governance of GB will not help in its being recognized as a province.”

‘A Pakistani View of Pakistan’s Decline’

In a country where a certain set of institutions frame not only the narrative but what you hear in the news and ban or censor any news or newspaper or media house who does not fall in line, it is refreshing to read a piece that is brutally honest. In his latest piece for Dawn, columnist F. S. Aijazuddin undertakes a detailed examination of where Pakistan stands on the eve of the 2018 elections. He ominously predicts: “What will the Pakistan of 2023 be? Voters have been told to expect a ‘new Pakistan’. They should be prepared for the disappointment, similar to the one Francis Younghusband felt during his travels to Lahaul in the 1880s: “So I asked again how far Dadh was and the man said two miles. So I asked whether I could see the village, so he said yes, and showed me a village behind. Voters beware. Your ‘new’ Pakistan is behind you.”

Starting with the “dying parliament” Aijazuddin states: “It is dependent upon last-minute whiffs of oxygen, desperately resuscitating itself by passing insidious resolutions unanimously in a near-empty house. The most recent one will remain on our conscience for longer than it will stay on the statute books — the attempt to obliterate at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, the name of Dr Abdus Salam, our first Nobel laureate.”

Turning to Pakistan’s “toothless foreign policy” the columnist asserts: “After 70 years of cohabitation with the United States, we have decided that even a belated too little is more than enough. We have chosen to confront our long-term benefactor the US, this time over one of its Islamabad-based officials — Col Joseph Hall, defence and air attaché.”

On the economic front, Aijazuddin notes that “Our annual budget has been passed without a debate, without a glance. It has become yesterday’s rubbish, relegated to the grubby hands of those who buy waste by weight.”

Aijazuddin further points out that “The public is used to seeing lawyers punch each other in courtrooms. The paper-screen reputation of the judiciary has been perforated as now judges criticise each other. Over the years, many of the principles of British jurisprudence and legal canons were adopted by us. The only one left was to reincarnate another Judge Jeffries.”

He ends his column with these words about the 2018 elections: “Will the next National Assembly fulfil the expectations of 104,267,581 registered voters? Will it even matter? Or will it be no better than the committee of Richard Harkness’s definition: “a group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary”.”