Pulling the Plug: Is the Era of Media Freedom Over?

TV off air

The historical irony that a military dictator ushered in an era of journalistic freedom has not gone unnoticed. Gen Musharraf unleashed the media dogs, and the media dogs bit him squarely. For the next few years, the media served a purpose, though, keeping check on our new democracy by showing no restraint against any civilian politician. But as the curtain begins to close on Pakistani democracy, the era of media freedom too appears to be drawing to a close.

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The Durrani Network: What Jihadi Generals Can Get Away With

Traitor stamp

Gen Musharraf has never been known for being tight lipped. Recently, he has been speaking openly to international media and admitting that Pakistan has been supporting the Taliban and other jihadi militant groups who Army sees as a useful proxy against Indian influence in Afghanistan while also cooperating with NATO. Musharraf says that Army is not playing a double game, but then admits the obvious: It is. “Pakistan’s interest comes first,” he said. “But is this also the interest of ISAF? I don’t know.” He doesn’t know if it is in the interest of ISAF for a frontline ally to support their enemy?

Musharraf’s confirmation of Army support for Taliban is particularly important in the context of facts revealed by Wikileaks documents a few years ago. One leaked document discusses the involvement of another former General, Hamid Gul, in supporting Taliban. According to one document, “It was not known whether Hamid Gul was acting with the knowledge or consent of ISI, or whether any portions of ISI were aware of his activities.” While the knowledge or consent of secret agencies will always be difficult to prove beyond any doubt, it would be fairly naive to believe that Hamid Gul’s pro-Jihad activities were done without at least tacit approval of the Army leadership. Hamid Gul has described himself as “an ideologue of jihad“. It is increasingly apparent that he is not the only General who subscribes to this ideology.

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Ex-Army chief forced to live under armed guard in his own country

Kayani

Former Chief of Army Staff, the most powerful man in the country since long, has been forced to abandon his new retirement home and live under heavy guard due to security threats.

While he was still in service, General Kayani planned to spend his retired life in Islamabad’s Defence Housing Authority (DHA) where he constructed a house with a grey stone finish at a scenic location in Phase 1.

Perched on a corner plot, the house continues to stand apart in the housing colony. Its terraced gardens slope down to the River Soan. The plot in front remains vacant.

However, security experts felt that the house was a security threat because it was impossible to protect the rear end of the house (where the land sloped down to the river).

Although, the house has close circuit television (CCTV) for monitoring the security of the house but this was deemed insufficient.

Much has been said about the sad times our country has fallen on when politicians openly express sympathies with for terrorists and insult our own soldiers and only protest drones even though maximum numbers of Pakistanis are killed by terrorists. But what can we say when the country is so plagued by terrorists that even the ex-Army chief is forced to abandon his own home due to security concerns?

Kayani’s Legacy: Myth and Reality

Samiul Haq, Tahir Ashrafi, Gen Kayani

Gen Kayani’s imminent retirement has resulted in a surge in two related parlour games: Wistful speeches about the outgoing  Army chief’s place in history and the wishful thinking about who the incoming Army chief will be and how he will continue Kayani’s legacy of saving Pakistan. Whoever the new COAS will be is known only to one man right now, and he isn’t talking. But it is worth taking a moment to reflect on Gen Kayani’s legacy, both the myths and the reality.

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Red Lines and Declarations of War

PTI spokesperson Shireen Mazari leads anti-American demonstration

PTI spokesperson Shireen Mazari leads anti-American demonstration

The latest drone attack is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it took place in Khyber Pakhtunkwa. As far as I remember, every other drone strike till date has taken place in FATA where it was always explained that there was no other way to reach terrorists due to the difficult landscape. The geographical expansion of drone strikes, even if it is an anomaly, is important though. We know that the CIA informs the ISI every month of the areas they intend to strike, so the question must be asked whether the military knew that the American ‘flight boxes’ had been expanded and chose to do nothing to stop it, or whether the military was once again caught sleeping as it was when American helicopters flew into Abbottabad?

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