Monday, May 28, 2018

Music Video - Jennifer Lopez - Booty ft. Iggy Azalea

Video Report - 🇸🇦 🇾🇪 More than 1,000 Saudi troops killed in Yemen since war began | Al Jazeera English

Video Report - #Syria shows how it is rebuilding #Aleppo

Video Report - Brits are fed up with UK govt’s lack of moving forward in Brexit talks – UK official

Video - Remembrance. Rewriting history: Red Army’s role in liberating Europe censored in the West

Video Report - What happened to Dubai's Princess Latifa? - BBC News

Video Report - What happend to Dubai's Sheika Latifa | DW English

Video - #MamoudouGassama: Malian migrant is man of the hour

Video Report - 'Spiderman' rescue: #Malian hero to receive #French citizenship

Video Report - Malian migrant in France saves young child dangling from a balcony

Video - Fareed: Obvious Trump is a bad negotiator

Video - Lemon: America is in the middle of a crisis

Video - Memorial Day Video Tribute 2018

#MemorialDay2018 — let's remember those who died as a result of VA's lack of accountability

Every Memorial Day, our news and social media channels are filled with images of heroic veterans, reminding us that “all gave some, but some gave all.” Typically, when we are honoring those who died in service to our country, we conjure up images of soldiers who died nobly on the battlefield, taking their last breath while shots blaze and bombs go off all-around them.
However, this Memorial Day, we must commit to honoring those who died for their country, albeit in a much less glamorous and unnecessary way — those who died as a result of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lack of accountability.
By now, the VA’s woes since the patient wait-time scandal of 2014 first broke have been well-documented, including the fact that as many as hundreds of thousands of veterans have died as a result of inability to access VA care. From the current drama over the appointment of a new Secretary to Congress’s cold feet on choice and caregiver expansion legislation (the latter of which looks like it will soon be remedied), veterans issues have enjoyed, albeit somewhat reluctantly, a top spot in the Trump administration’s list of priorities.
Of the topics dominating the focus on veterans’ issues, first and foremost is choice, or the ability to pick a healthcare provider in your community or at the VA, rather than being forced to see one or the other as dictated by VA bureaucrats. What is talked about less and less, unfortunately, is the accountability component.
In the same way that the military commits to leaving no man behind, those that are committed to VA reform must not leave accountability behind. The accountability component is important, because, without it, we are forced to remember a large number of veterans on Memorial Day rather than celebrate with them on Veterans Day.
In 2014, issues surrounding VA choice and accountability went hand in hand. Indeed, the first legislation passed in response to the wait-time scandal was entitled “Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act.”
To their credit, the Trump administration attempted to tackle the accountability issue head on by creating the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. However, like many good ideas trusted to the VA for implementation, according to numerous whistleblowers, the VAOWP quickly became a tool used to further whistleblower retaliation, rather than to remedy it.
For example, take a look at the case of Dr. Dale Klein, the first VA whistleblower to have his case handled by the new VAOWP. Rather than providing a triumphant example of years of bureaucratic injustice being corrected and how veterans’ lives were saved by addressing his concerns, Klein’s case demonstrated just the opposite. He was unceremoniously fired for “failure to follow orders” — even though his orders included treating veterans in an unsanitary workspace and overprescribing prescription pain medicine.
Upon his arrival at the Poplar Bluffs VA Medical Center in Missouri, Klein raised these issues to the VA Office of the Inspector General, most notably his concerns about opioid prescriptions, which were subsequently substantiated in a June 2017 OIG report. Instead of fixing the problems and protecting Klein through the VAOWP, the VA fired him.
According to Dr. Klein, “OAWP's ostensible purpose is to hold management accountable for retaliating against whistleblowers.  Unfortunately, administrators were not held accountable in my case, which has emboldened them to retaliate.”
And, Dr. Klein’s situation is not unique. According to Tom Devine, legal director of the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, “the VA is by far the most repressive federal agency in the government. Depending on the year, between a third and 40 percent of whistleblower retaliation complaints for the whole government comes from this one agency.”
In other words, accountability at the VA is lacking much more than it is in the rest of the federal government.
Furthering this point, a new report from Whistleblowers of America, an organization that assists whistleblowers who have suffered from retaliation after having identified harm to individuals or the public, found that most whistleblowers find that the VAOWP has failed them. According to one whistleblower who contributed to the report, “Whistleblowers would be better off if OAWP did not exist because it gives whistleblowers a false sense of security where none exists. And obviously, it wastes taxpayers’ money because OAWP is ineffective.”
There is a saying that illusions never change into something real. Currently, many politicians take pleasure in finding VA accountability to be an issue they no longer need to deal with, due to the creation of the VAOWP. However, due to larger systemic issues within the VA, this is just an illusion; and real accountability is still lacking.
Despite this criticism, Devine acknowledges that the OAWP “has made a good-faith effort to try to help whistleblowers,” but add that’s that “the national VA office just doesn't have the power to effectively police the local branches.”
Thankfully, to this end, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hinted at a recent hearing that they were looking into such structural changes that may result in greater accountability, to include an overhaul of VA’s VISN structure.
“The VISNs are due for an overhaul,” said committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. “They should be the fail-safe mechanism when a medical center goes off course. Unfortunately, too many of them seem to be afflicted with a case of learned bureaucratic helplessness.”
As we acknowledge this Memorial Day that there is no more noble pursuit than risking your life for your country, let’s remember that risking one’s life shouldn’t carry over to one’s dealings with the VA after service.

#MemorialDay2018 - Former presidents honor fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama took to social media on Monday to honor America's fallen service members on Memorial Day.
Obama shared a photo of himself in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a message honoring "our fallen heroes."
Clinton kept his twitter message short, writing: “Remembering, honoring, and thanking all who served our great country.”

Bush shared on Instagram a portrait he painted of David Wright, a marine who died this month, and honored “the brave souls who have given their lives in defense of our country.”
“May we honor them in thought and in deed this #MemorialDay,” he added.

Music Video - Shabana - Tere Siwa Duniya Mein - Babra Sharif, Waheed Murad - Naheed Akhtar

Music Video - Mehnaz - May jis din bhula don tera pyar dil se


Protest in Pakistan over Gilgit-Baltistan order

Several people have been injured in Pakistan in clashes between police and protesters during a demonstration against the so-called Gilgit-Baltistan order, media reports said on Sunday.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has seized more authority from the local council to deal with the affairs of the disputed region through the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 which was passed on May 21.

The order is seen as Islamabad's efforts towards incorporating the disputed region as its fifth province.

Police fired tear gas shells and resorted to aerial firing in Gilgit yesterday to stop protesters approaching towards Gilgit-Baltistan assembly for a scheduled sit-in against the newly introduced order, The Express Tribune reported.
Politicians, cutting across party lines, held protest rallies across Gilgit-Baltistan demanding constitutional rights for the region.

The Gilgit-Baltistan government has promulgated the Gilgit-Baltistan Order-2018, which replaced the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009.
However, the new order has failed to impress local politicians who announced region-wide protests.
"We will continue our sit-in outside the assembly till this package is revoked and we are given constitutional rights," said Awami Action Committee (AAC) Chairman Sultan Raees.
Civil rights groups in Pakistan have also criticised the order.

In New Delhi, Pakistan's deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah was summoned over Islamabad's so-called Gilgit-Baltistan order.

He was told by India that any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under his country's forcible occupation has no legal basis.

In a statement, the ministry of external affairs said it conveyed to Shah that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, which also includes the so-called 'Gilgit-Baltistan' areas, is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947.

Pakistan has bifurcated occupied Kashmir into two administrative parts - Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Gilgit-Baltistan was treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan untill now.
Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh are the four provinces of Pakistan.

#Pakistan's - Ilaqa-e-Ghair - Rethinking FATA

By Zaigham Khan

The Ilaqa-e-Ghair – the alien territory – is no longer ghair (alien). Through the 31st Amendment to the constitution, parliament ended Fata’s ‘special’ status last week. It is an occasion to celebrate, but it is also a moment for soul-searching, particularly on the part of those who have been, or are, at the helm of the state in Pakistan.

Why did it take us three generations to make such a common sense decision? How and why did we accept the British colonial explanation of the culture of the area, based on sheer stereotyping? Why did we not bother to develop our own knowledge and understanding of Pakistani cultures and people? How did those sound cultural reasons for the unique governance structure of Fata evaporate overnight? How did this area turn into an ungoverned space that went into the hands of insurgents and had to be re-conquered through military means? Why did we have to wait for the people of the area, and a good part of the country, to go through a trial of fire before making this decision? Finally, are there other Fatas in Pakistan hiding in plain sight?

Let’s start with the problem of the “alien gaze”, ie looking at our own people with the lens of a powerful outsider. There is a famous travel writer who writes about Pakistani people and places with the arrogance of a 19th century European explorer. He happens to have a background of government service. More or less, this is the attitude of most officers in the service of Pakistan. This attitude, inherited from the British at the time of Independence, has continued without much alteration.

Talk to an officer of the elite District Management Group (DMG), for example, and he will tell you about the people of his district quoting some centuries-old British gazetteers. It is one thing for people to have stereotypes, it is quite another for state functionaries to perpetuate and propagate them, and govern using these stereotypes. Fata existed for seven decades because our rulers foolishly believed, or cunningly assumed, outlandish cultural assumptions that cannot stand the scrutiny of social sciences.

The people of Fata have suffered from this stereotype-based ‘knowledge’ as the foundation of policy. These stereotypes are not completely external. Many of these stereotypes have been fully internalised by the people themselves or, as some researchers have shown, they started as internal stereotypes and the British used them for their own objectives. Pakhtuns saw themselves as warlike while outsiders either respected them for this stereotype or turned this stereotype upon them by branding them as irrational, headstrong and violent.

These stereotypes were peddled to justify a governance structure that was based on the strategic needs of the British Empire. Fata was crafted as a ‘frontier’ of the empire with Czarist Russia – an additional buffer behind the buffer state of Afghanistan. It also served as a buffer from the unrest in Afghanistan. For strategic considerations, these areas were insulated from political movements in British India and, later, in Pakistan. In fact, adult franchise was extended to Fata in 1997 and political parties were only allowed to work in the tribal belt in 2011 when the PPP government introduced a set of reforms and extended the Political Parties Act to the region.

The first serious effort to reform governance in Fata was made by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1976 when he formed a committee under Gen Naseerullah Babar. The committee included Hafeez Pirzada, Rafi Raza and Dr Mubashar Hassan and was given the task to create a framework so that Fata could become a part of the then NWFP.

Under Zia, Fata was turned into a strategic space once again which provided Pakistan with plausible deniability for its involvement in the Afghan jihad. However, Fata was not just a strategic space, it was also the bureaucrat’s kingdom where officers ruled with the grandeur and glory of the colonial era. There was no job more coveted than the office of the political agent in the tribal region. A job in Fata offered access to limitless power, unaudited state resources and a share in the huge crime economy. Officers would return from Fata with riches that could be laden on dozens, if not hundreds, of camels – all at the cost of the common man in the area who lived a life that was worse than the citizen of a famine-stricken country. (Kindly see the human development indicators if you find this statement exaggerated).

In Fata, the social contract between individuals and the state did not exist. In fact, the individuality of a citizen was denied through the FCR, which made the whole tribe responsible for the actions of an individual. It was an ominous reminder of the period of Jahiliya, the pre-state age in the Arabian Peninsula that Islam ended fourteen centuries ago.

While political parties and the civil society were locked out, religious groups, the uncivil society and criminal gangs flocked to the region and thrived in this poorly governed space. It became a hub of smuggling, narcotics and violent religio-political movements. Thanks to Fata, Pakistan became a major exporter of narcotics to the world. Whenever an individual was abducted or a car was stolen in any part of the country, there was always a good chance that they could be found in Fata. More recently, it became a sanctuary for terrorists from all over the world.

Pakistan’s achievements in its war against terror may be unparalleled, but, at the same time, it will be hard to find a parallel to such self-defeating policies. In Fata, the state gave away its monopoly over force – the very basic definition of state.

While we integrate Fata, we must debate the fabric of the Pakistani state and its colonial heritage. Dozens of Pakistani institutions and hundreds of Pakistani laws are colonial fossils that have no purpose other than to serve elite interests. It is time to wake up because they can no longer serve elite interests.

Pakistan’s system of law and order, and its justice system, are the heaviest colonial millstone around our necks. The failure of our justice system can be easily linked to the rise of terrorism. Reforming the police, laws and the justice system should be a top priority. The municipal problems do cause diseases, but they do not cause terrorism or threaten the very existence of the state. The failure of the justice system does that.

Lack of evidence-based policy results in the allocation of resources on the basis of patronage. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the developed areas get the lion’s share of resources while the least developed areas have to depend on crumbs. This situation has only worsened under the PTI government. Is there a guarantee that subsequent KP governments will not treat Fata in a similar manner?

The bureaucratic state of Pakistan suspects the civil society and human rights defenders, while it feels more comfortable with the conformist and backward-looking uncivil society. Will Pakistan’s real rulers allow the civil society to thrive in the integrated Fata regions or the rest of the country? Before we end our discussion on Fata, we must start debating Gilgit-Baltistan. Why has Pakistan’s paradise been in a constitutional limbo for seven decades? Must we wait for the people to rise before we undertake serious reforms? Can’t we find a way to integrate GB without sacrificing our national interests?

#Pakistan - Aseefa Bhutto distributes Iftar boxes among people in Karachi

Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, the daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, distributed iftar boxes among the poor and deserving families in Karachi on Sunday.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) set up an iftar camp and the youngest member of Bhutto family, Aseefa distributed iftar boxes to the needy near her residence at Bilawal House.

Aseefa is also committed to eradicating polio from Pakistan. She is the Rotary Ambassador and a former UN Ambassador for Polio Eradication.

She has actively driven an anti-polio campaign across the nation to make people aware of the serious consequences of this epidemic and has encouraged the masses to get their offspring vaccinated against this fatal disease.

In Pakistan, Non-Muslim Voters Up By 30%, Hindus Maintain Majority

The number of Hindu voters before 2013 polls was 1.40 million, higher than the collective number of all other minorities.

The number of non-Muslim voters in Pakistan has climbed to 3.63 million in 2018 with the Hindus at 1.77 million maintaining their majority among the religious minority electorate, according to a new voters' list prepared by authorities ahead of the general elections.

The non-Muslim voters have registered an increase of 30 per cent over the last five years, the Dawn newspaper reported citing an official document.

The number of voters belonging to religious minorities has climbed to 3.63 million in 2018 from 2.77 million as registered in electoral rolls for the 2013 general elections, it said.

According to the report, the number of Hindu voters before 2013 polls was 1.40 million, higher than the collective number of all other minorities.

The number of Hindu voters now stands at 1.77 million.

Hindu voters continue to maintain their majority among the minorities, but they no more constitute over half of total non-Muslim voters as was the case in 2013, according to the report.

They are mostly concentrated in the Sindh province, where in two districts they form over 40 per cent of total registered voters.

The current government led by the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) will complete its tenure on May 31 post which a caretaker regime will oversee the election which is proposed to be held on July 25.

A total of 105 million -- 59.2 million males and 46.7 million females -- constitute the electoral roll across the six provinces of Pakistan, which has a population of over 200 million, according to data on the website of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

A triangular contest between the governing PML-N led by prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan's PTI and former president Asif Ali Zardari's PPP is on the cards.

Christians form the second largest group of non-Muslim voters, totalling 1.64 million with over 1 million settled in Punjab followed by over 200,000 in Sindh. Their number has grown at a relatively high pace as compared to Hindu voters as it was 1.23 million before the 2013 general polls.

The total number of Ahmadi voters is 167,505 - most of whom dwell in Punjab, followed by Sindh and Islamabad. The number in 2013 stood at 115,966.

Of the total 8,852 Sikh voters, most are settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed by Sindh and Punjab. Their presence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is more than their combined strength in Balochistan and Islamabad. They numbered 5,934 in 2013.

The number of Parsi voters has grown from 3,650 in 2013 to 4,235. Majority of them are settled in Sindh followed by KP. The number of Buddhist voters has increased from 1,452 in 2013 to 1,884. Most of them live in Sindh and Punjab.

There are a total of 31,543 voters from the Bahai community on the electoral rolls.

The report, based on official document, makes no mention of Jewish voters in Pakistan, though in 2013 there were 809 Jewish voters in the country 427 women and 382 men.

While the district-wise data of non-Muslim voters is yet to be prepared, according to official statistics related to 2013 elections, Umerkot and Tharparkar districts in Sindh had as high percentage as 49 per cent and 46 per cent of total voters, respectively.

The voting lists have been updated ahead of election scheduled to be held on July 25.

#Pakistan - OP-ED #FATA: is a merger the solution?

By Lal Khan

The merger of FATA with KP alone will not make much difference for the region’s oppressed people

The situation in the backward wilderness of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) has been simmering for the last few years. The British imperialists called these badlands, and therefore carved the region to contain the Pakhtun tribes straddling across their imposed Durand Line of 1893. The Colonial Raj indirectly ruled FATA brutally through the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), first promulgated in 1872. Under this archaic law, an innocent individual could be imprisoned for the crimes of his or her relatives. Families were subjected to collective punishment, the government could displace entire villages without compensation, explanation, or warning and individuals would languish behind bars for years without any charges being filed.

These laws prevailed for 70 years after the so-called independence of 1947. The recent anti-terrorist operations have inflicted dreadful collateral damage. Hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes; villages and bazaars were bombed into ruins, thousands of civilians were killed and maimed in this crossfire. Many thousands remain ‘missing’ in suspicion of supporting the Taliban. It has now been decided, however, that FATA is to be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Last Thursday, Pakistan’s parliament approved the 31st Amendment Bill 2017 to the 1973 Constitution for the merger of FATA with KP. However, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) opposed the bill and staged a walkout. Their vested interests seemed to be in conflict with those of the other mainstream parties and their bosses. But an earlier high level meeting of the military establishment and the government ensured the passage of this bill.

The passage of the bill became necessary after an unprecedented political movement by FATA’s youth started last autumn. The extrajudicial murder of a young Pakhtun named Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud in Karachi by the police accentuated the uprising. Hundreds of thousands of Pakhtuns, as well as members of other ethnicities thronged to the mass rallies supporting the demands of the PTM. These included putting an end to the discriminatory treatment of FATA’s people, including harassment of tribal women by security forces at check posts; recovery of missing people covertly abducted by intelligence and security agencies; the removal of hazardous landmines and the reconstruction of their property, which was destroyed during military operations.

There is no industry in FATA, and social infrastructure is negligible. More and more people have turned to the narcotics and the arms trade to earn a living

The regime and the military establishment were caught unawares and baffled by the intensity and vigour of this new movement from the tribal areas, but all media outlets have capitulated to complete censorship of this movement. The deep state has resorted to stealth repression. However, it has continued to garner support and has successfully held some of the largest rallies held by any indigenous grass route movement over the last few decades. The fight is far from finished.

FATA’s people were the main sufferers of the Afghan Dollar Jihad during the late 1970s and 1980s. After the collapse of the USSR and subsequent departure of the Americans, FATA became a hub of the drug trade and a training ground for Islamist sects breeding terrorism. Western and regional imperialists have kept their proxies, wreaking havoc in their lust for FATA’s abundant natural and mineral resources, along with its strategic significance. FATA has also been subjected to a blitzkrieg of indiscriminate US drone attacks, mainly killing civilians.

The CIA financed reactionary insurgency in Afghanistan with locally generated black capital from the drug trade, ransom and other crimes. The black economy still dominates the region and the rest of Pakistan. Any structural change in the administrative apparatus and political setup would be unable to break the strangle hold of the drug barons and bosses of this black capital. Keeping the Levies force intact according to this plan will continue a parallel law-enforcement apparatus, which will further confuse jurisdiction.

FATA is the most impoverished and least developed region of the country. It is an arid mountainous region, made up of seven ‘political agencies’ Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, Orakzai, North Waziristan and South Waziristan, spanning 27,220 square kilometres. Literacy rate is 17.4 percent, and only three percent amongst women. Eighty-six percent of the population lives beneath the poverty line. Traditionally, the economy was based on subsistence agriculture, rearing livestock the indigenous weapons manufacturing industry and small-scale businesses. Many locals have migrated to larger cities and abroad in search of jobs. The internecine wars have destroyed their orchards, small businesses and other sources of livelihood. There is no industry and social infrastructure is negligible. More and more people have turned to the narcotics and the arms trade to earn a living.

With these socioeconomic conditions, the merger of FATA with KP would not make much difference for the oppressed. Access to the courts and other state institutions is going to be limited to the elite and sections of the middle class. The aristocratic elite related to black capital will continue to dominate the region economically, socially and politically. On the other hand, the demand for referendum in FATA for making it a separate province is also restricted to administrative changes only. The solution to the woes of the oppressed masses is the necessity of a socioeconomic system that can guarantee development; eliminate poverty, misery, illiteracy and deprivation. Other regions of the country have only a relatively better socioeconomic situation. Oppressed masses everywhere are yearning for an end to this exploitative system.

However as Marx explained, wherever capitalism exists, it penetrates into the deepest and farthest regions of the society. However, due to the rotten nature of Pakistan’s capitalism, its penetration has created more unevenness rather than any harmony and social development. In FATA, conditions of medieval ages exist side by side with the most modern smart phones and other 21st century gadgets. Rather than eliminating backwardness, this distorted and weak capitalist modernity has made this medieval tribal system more corrupt, criminal, reactionary and vicious; creating seething contradictions. The courageous uprising of the Pakhtun youth from this primitive area was actually an explosion of these contradictions. For the attainment of their basic human rights and fundamental necessities of existence, this struggle of the Pakhtun youth has to be linked with the class struggle of the oppressed throughout South Asia. Only through a revolutionary strike can these colonial shackles be broken. Only by transforming this socioeconomic system can FATA be brought out of the wilderness of terror and backwardness and its people achieve emancipation and prosperity.

#Pakistan - A new wave of censorship

By Mazhar Abbas

Unlike the past, the media is not banned; the circulation of newspapers is blocked or tv channels are put off air. Had restrictions come under any black law one could have at least fought a legal battle. But, when it comes from ‘hidden sources’. What do you do?

Are the days of ‘press in chains’ or ‘web of censorship’ gone? Or are they back in a different form?

The media has resisted and fought censorship for decades. The last such struggle lasted 88 days, after the November 3, 2007 emergency, when tv channels were ordered to go off air by the then military ruler. Now, however, the scenario is different, as even the government and the ministry of information is ‘clueless’ about the forces pressurising the media. If the Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb can admit, “there is unprecedented censorship”, then who can a journalist turn to for relief in times of distress.

One may say it is failure of the government or challenge for the writ of the state or pity the government’s helplessness. But unquestionably in the last one year in particular the media has been under a different kind of pressure.

Last year, when I asked Marriyum Aurangzeb about the submission of a bill in the National Assembly by her ministry without her knowledge, she said, “Yes, it is true. I called the concerned officer to ask on whose instructions he had prepared the draft. He is now facing an inquiry and is under suspension”. The minister came to know about it when someone from the media informed her about the content of the bill that, if passed, would be worst than Ayub Khan’s Press and Publication Ordinance.

Likewise, in the Sindh Assembly, a bill of a similar nature was drafted about six months ago but due to timely intervention of the media bodies the Sindh Information Minister had to withdraw it from being presented before the parliamentary committee on information.

In another unprecedented development, Chairman Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) sent notice to the daily Dawn where it sought explanation from the paper for interviewing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This came amid reaction from other members of the Council that questioned the power of the Chairman from taking notice without the consent of other members.

Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English newspaper, is under pressure since the days of Dawn Leaks, and hawkers have been told to not distribute the paper in certain areas of the country.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), an autonomous body, despite nomination of its chairman by the president and members by the government, has been under pressure for many years. Pemra is clueless how Geo went off air after the attack on senior journalist and host Capital Talk, Hamid Mir as no such instruction was issued to cable operators back in 2014.

The media has always resisted such forms of censorship to defend freedom of press and right to information. Sadly, the spirit to protect the media is missing today. Journalists are now asked, “Are you with us or against us”, and mostly their response is, “with you”, as the market forces have overpowered the right to information or freedom of press.
Although actions have been taken against other tv channels, at times from the ‘government side’, the case of Geo is unique because the ‘unknown quarters’ imposed the ban on the entire Geo network, not just the Geo News.

The courts often call Pemra officials for petitions filed by citizens on different accounts. What is amazing is that when Pemra takes action against any channel or anchor or show, the owners get a stay order issued from the courts. Presently, hundreds of such stay orders are pending in the courts.

The latest in the series of concerns about media censorship has been the unwritten instructions issued to print and electronic media on the coverage of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), which has emerged after the extrajudicial killing of young Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi. An ‘encounter specialist’ SSP Rao Anwar and his encounter squad was finally arrested and put on trial.

Many columnists and writers have complained that their articles were either dropped or they had been told not to write on the PTM. Here, again, instructions or ‘press advice’ did not come from the government, rather media-persons were told by their bosses not to cover the movement.

The media in Pakistan has also come under scrutiny in its coverage of anti-judiciary remarks. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have criticised the judges that disqualified him for holding bias against him, and has of late coined a new term ‘Khalai Makhlook’ for the establishment. Now criticism of the judgement is one thing and remarks against a judge another; the latter falls in the category of contempt and liable. Therefore, tv channels should have been aware of this violation in the first place. As a late reaction, the media is now using the ‘mute’ option to censor controversial remarks against the judiciary — but only after the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered that Pemra must ensure that no tv channels air any ‘anti-judiciary speeches’ in the future.

Where it’s problematic to tell them to downplay Nawaz’s and Maryam’s political narrative, the tv channels also must not deviate from good media practices.

Media in Balochistan has been facing pressure for years from state agencies, outlawed groups, sectarian and other terror networks. Media-persons have been threatened, attacked — and tragically killed. At least nine newspapers are facing charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act for publishing press releases of outlawed groups. No one is listening to their pleas that had they published them press releases under duress.

In this age of ‘unedited’ and ‘uncontrollable’ social media, it is easier than ever to publish fake news. This is creating problems for mainstream media that has developed a tendency to take such news as factual and accurate.

The government has failed to evolve a media policy or impose checks and balances on the industry. The media stakeholders are equally to be blamed for failing to check sensational news in the country.

Unlike the past, in this new wave of censorship, the media is not banned; the circulation of newspapers is blocked or tv channel are put off air or demoted to 70th or 80th position on the cable network to decrease ratings. Under constant pressure, proprietors, editors and reporters feel governed by their own self-censorship code. Had these restrictions come under any black law, one could have at least fought a legal battle. But, when it comes from ‘hidden sources’ or when you feel you are under surveillance, your mobile is not safe, what do you do?

The media has always resisted such forms of censorship to defend freedom of press and right to information. Sadly, the spirit to protect the media is missing today. Journalists are now asked, “Are you with us or against us”, and mostly their response is, “with you”, as the market forces have overpowered the right to information or freedom of press.

So, if Pakistan’s two strongest media houses are feeling the heat, imagine what the others are going through. With divisions in journalist bodies like PFUJ, which has a history of struggles against censorship, APNS, CPNE and PBA, political parties and civil society all confused, there is little hope for defenders of freedom of press.

Bilawal Bhutto nominates ex Senator Farhatullah Babar to the reconciliatory jirga proposed by the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement for negotiations with the state institutions

Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari today nominated ex Senator Farhatullah Babar to the reconciliatory jirga proposed by the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) for negotiations with the state institutions.
The nomination was made after the head of PTM Mr Manzoor Pashteen called Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on the phone Monday. PPP Chairman is in Karachi to chair meetings of parliamentary board for award of party tickets to aspiring candidates for forthcoming general elections on July 25.
During the talk Bilawal Bhutto said that PPP believed in peaceful resolution of issues through dialogue and negotiations and he was happy to nominate Farhatullah Babar to the PTM reconciliatory jirga.