Saturday, April 21, 2018


The US State Department in its annual country report noted that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances received 4,608 missing person cases in Pakistan and claimed to have closed 3,076 of those cases, while 1,532 remain open.
Data from the commission showed the number of persons reported missing was highest in KP (751 missing), followed by Punjab (245 missing), Balochistan (98 missing), Sindh (50 missing), Fata (48 missing), the Islamabad Capital Territory (45 missing), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) (14 missing), and Gilgit-Baltistan (five missing).
The State Department report also highlights the issue of forced disappearances in Pakistan, noting that in 2017, “there were kidnappings and forced disappearances of persons from various backgrounds in nearly all areas of the country. Some police and security forces reportedly held prisoners incommunicado and refused to disclose their location”.
The report also alleges that dozens of political workers and activists were kidnapped, tortured and killed in all these places.
The most significant human rights issues identified in the report include extrajudicial and targeted killings, disappearances, torture, lack of rule of law and frequent mob violence and vigilante justice with limited accountability.
Additional problems identified in the report are arbitrary detention, lengthy pre-trial detention, a lack of judicial independence in the lower courts, governmental infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, harassment of journalists, and high-profile attacks against journalists and media organisations.
Government restrictions on freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom of religion and discrimination against religious minorities, and sectarian violence have also continued.

#Pakistan - #PashtunLongMarch2Lahore - At least 10 activists go ‘missing’ ahead of PTM rally

 At least a dozen organisers of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) rally in Lahore on late Saturday were allegedly picked up by security officials ahead of the rally scheduled to be held at Mochi Gate on Sunday.
According to initial reports, Awami Workers Party (AWP) leaders Ismat Shahjahan and Fanoos Gujjar, PTM leader Ali Wazir, Muzzamil Khan, Alamgir Mehsud and Imran Mandokhel were among the people reportedly detained by the authorities.
In a video making rounds on social media, police officials can be seen arguing with them before they were whisked away. However, the whereabouts of the missing activists remains unknown.
When Pakistan Today contacted Civil Lines SP Operations Safdar Kazmi, whose jurisdiction Davis Road comes in—he categorically denied the police’s involvement in the incident and said police is in no way responsible for the incident.
The development comes in the wake of the police’s directives to the protesters that they would provide security to the rally, but they notification barring the PTM from holding the rally won’t be revoked.

“The rally tomorrow at 4 pm will go as planned. You all are requested to reach the spot as planned. You might have found out that currently, there is an on going series of arrests of the PTM leaders in Lahore. Ali Wazir, Bilal Mandokhel, Muzammil, a senior lady Ismat Shahjehan, Shehbaz and other comrades have been arrested. Then, at the Punjab University, students Alamgir Wazir, Adnan Mehsud, Noorul Hameed and others have been arrested, in addition to several others. This spate of arrests continues, as I speak to you,” said the leader of the movement, Manzoor Pashteen while reacting to the arrests.
“You had arrested Ali Wazir even when the corpses of his father and brothers were lying in his house. They had given up their lives for the homeland, yet you arrested him; he is used to this behaviour. You have shown the path you are on and the path we are on. Spreading terror is your tactic; spreading the word of peace from city to city is ours,” he said.
Pashteen denounced the protests, saying, “It is not just here that you have harassed us. And then, with your propaganda and cunning you have hidden your actions. And have done whatever it took to make yourself seem justified.”
“I request all of you to record your protests in all the cities of Pakistan tomorrow (Sunday) for the sake of the constitution of our country. In particular, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in a peaceful manner; don’t let that go. Don’t say anything to anyone, even if someone harasses you or hits you; that is their nature, that is what he has done all his life.”
“But we will not stay quite. We are tribals. We didn’t even know how to stage rallies. We didn’t know how to ask for rights. We had other methods but we will not resort to those,” he warned.
Earlier in the day, a notification was issued by the government that barred the PTM from holding the rally at Mochi Gate. However, later in the day, the district admin agreed to provide security to the gathering, however, it refused to retract the notification, Pakistan Today had learnt.
“We will gather at Mochi Gate no matter what, and will not allow such meddling to come in the way of our movement,” said Ismat Shahjahan, the organiser of the rally, speaking to Pakistan Today.
Earlier, the district administration of Lahore had rejected the PTM’s plans to hold the public gathering in Lahore late on Friday night. The rally had been announced in a Peshawar meeting of the movement on April 8.
“The civil government had verbally communicated their assent to us multiple times and had said that the No Objection Certificate (NOC) was as good as issued, but now they have come up with security concerns a day before our rally!” Shahjahan went on to say.
“This is a movement which has been speaking the truth from day one. There has not been a single untoward incident in any of our gatherings, then why is the Lahore administration so averse to granting us permission?” she questioned.
Meanwhile, officials from the Deputy Commissioner (DC) office told Pakistan Today that the decision to not grant the NOC to the organisers of the rally was taken after they received word of an increased threat level in the city.
“The NOC was not granted after a detailed intelligence meeting of the administration. We had received word that there was a threat level and it was deemed prudent to not allow any such gathering that may cause disruptions or be a target,” said Amir Shafiq from the DC office.
“They have also not suggested an alternative venue,” he added.
When contacted, the DC office did not comment on the change of heart.

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement denied permission for Lahore rally

The administration has refused to grant permission to Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement for its public gathering at Lahore’s Mochi Gate on Sunday.
The PTM’s request for holding a rally in Lahore on April 22 was rejected due to “prevailing security circumstances”, according to a letter obtained by SAMAA.
Ali Wazir, a member of PTM, in a statement appealed the people of Lahore to gather at Mochi Gate to learn about the ordeal Pashtuns were going through in war-hit areas.
“We want to give details that don’t reach you due to media censorship,” the PTM member said.
Various civil rights groups, including Lahore Left Front, Joint Action Committee and Women Action Forum, have announced support for PTM’s event.
“We have informed the police that come what may we will hold Jalsa at Mochi Gate,” a member of Left Front told SAMAA.
He said the PTM has twice requested Lahore administration for permission but they denied.
“We have told them that we won’t accept their undemocratic ban which is a violation of right of association.”
“Are only religious group allowed to organize Jalsas?” he questioned, referring to a recent 12-day sit-in by Tehreek-e-Labbaik.

#Pakistan - The vanishing freedoms

By -   Afrasiab Khattak 

The fiction of a civiliangovernment has been cracking up under heavy burden of the reality of military control over the system during last few years. That the prolonged aggressive sit in in Islamabad in 2014 was scripted by elements in the security establishment was beyond any doubt as the sitting defense minister named names after the end of the aborted coup. The putschists had to beat a  retreat, at least temporarily, in the face of a joint call by all political parties in the parliament for unity against anti democratic forces. But the federal government was considerably weakened and it had  to concede vast swaths of governance, national security and foreign policy to the security establishment. From apex committees in all provinces for steering the anti terror campaign to manning checkpoints on the main roads through out the country, the army gradually came to occupy the driving seat in running the country in the era of war on terror. That the second installment of ambushing the civilian government would come from the judicial front was also predicted in advance by Javed Hashmi, a senior politician who parted ways with PTI in 2014 accusing it to be part of a future judicial coup plan.
After 18th Constitutional Amendment passed by the Parliament in 2010 that strengthened constitutional provisions against abrogation, subversion or suspension of the Constitution, removing the sitting prime ministers by judicial disqualification has become a favorite path for security establishment that remains to be the axil behind the change. The burden of constitutional and legal consequences falls on the Supreme Court and being the Apex Court of the country it has nothing to worry about. That it could disqualify an elected Prime Minister for having an “ aqama” ( residential visa of UAE) , although he was originally charged for alleged offshore companies of his children leaked in Panama Papers shows the length to which the Court can go. But there is a clear method in this madness. The Apex Court could not pursue the case against former military dictator General ( retired) Pervez Musharraf for abrogating the Constitution with the same zeal although it is almost an open and shut case. The retired General was allowed to leave the country on fabricated medical grounds and there is no sign of any judicial activism to bring him back for facing the most serious charges of high treason.
Br that as it may, now when the almost vanquished civilian government is about to come to the end of its constitutional term, the ever expanding authoritarian control has started targeting the hard earned democratic freedoms of the people. Freedom of expression has been the prime target for obvious reasons. The intelligence agencies connected to security establishment have already established control over most of the electronic media. But a few of tv channels that refused to fall in line were subjected to crude pressure. The Jang group of newspapers which also runs the well known tv channel Geo is a case in point. Cable operators through out the country were asked by the intelligence operatives to take the channel off the air. Neither the civilian government nor the judiciary could do anything against this undeclared censorship. After a month the media group had to accept the terms of the deep state for bringing back its broadcasts on air. This is a glaring example of the domination of de facto over de jure. Clamping a complete ban on media coverage of the activities of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement ( PTM), a nascent youth movement originating from FATA Pashtuns, is also an open secret. Initially the electronic media wasn’t allowed to cover the activities of this a movement that demands fundamental rights for Pashtuns and opposes war in Afghanistan being fought from Pakistani side of the border. Since the movement challenges the carefully crafted narrative of the security establishment regarding war in FATA and in Afghanistan, it was conveniently dubbed to be “ anti state” despite the fact that it is consistently and totally non violent and demands implementation of constitutional provisions on human rights. English language print media has enjoyed comparative freedom in Pakistan for two reasons. One its  readership is limited so it can’t make much of a difference. Two, foreign diplomats are impressed to see the level of freedom of media by reading English language newspapers and magazines. So initially reports and articles appeared in English language newspapers about PTM. But when it was felt that a critical mass is accumulating in the newspapers about the objectives of PTM, blunt methods of pressure were adopted to force the newspapers for taking off reports and articles regarding PTM from their websites. Sixty of the most prominent journalists, editors and anchors have issued a strong joint statement against the fresh curbs on media. The declaration says, “ media houses management, under pressure, are dropping op-ed columns and removing online editions of published articles. One media house even asked its anchors to stop live shows”, the declaration read further added that growing self-censorship on “ given news” rather than real news was synonymous with violating the citizen’s right to information. The joint declaration ended with the following words; “ We strongly protest against all forms of censorship imposed on free media and freedom of information and stand united against it”.
Several university campuses have  also seen an undeclared ban on seminars clamped by intelligence agencies on the subjects regarded to be “ undesirable “ by them. This can lead to an explosive situation in a country with a youth bulge in the population and where young people are asserting themselves to find space in sociopolitical life. The dramatic rise of PTM has underlined the potential for youth movement against oppression and tyranny. More than two hundreds professors from various universities have registered their protest against constraints imposed on freedom of expression on campuses. According to them growing suffocation on the campuses can gravely weaken the civil society.
So far the role of political parties has been disappointing in defending democratic freedoms. Their silence on the subject is deafening. They have failed to read the writing on the wall about the plan for fully controlled democracy even after the recent engineered Senate elections. Most of them are still busy in striking individual deals with the security establishment without realizing that vanishing of democratic freedoms for all practical purposes means end of democracy

Bilawal Bhutto pays rich tributes to the great poet Allama Iqbal on his 80th death anniversary

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has paid rich tributes to the great poet Allama Iqbal on his 80th death anniversary being observed today.

In his message, the PPP Chairman said the poetry of Allama Iqbal was an everlasting asset for not only the sub-continent but for the whole world as well. His poetic message always promoted human fraternity and love and lit the lamp of hope among the Muslims of South Asia, he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that his poetry can effectively be used against extremist religious and militancy tendencies and for the interpretations of spiritual and religious thoughts.

PPP Chairman said that onslaught of extremism can only be challenged through incorporating message of Allama Iqbal in religious education, who floated the concept of Pakistan. He remained an icon who tried to create awareness, sense of responsibility among Muslims for his entire life and infused new life in the independence movement, the PPP Chairman stated.