Sunday, June 3, 2018

Pashto Music Video - RAZA RAZA - NAZIA IQBAL

Music Video - Farzana Naaz - Pashto Shamal Afghan Music

Video Report - Exclusive: PTV journalist fired for her support to Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement

Video Report - What's going on with the Pashtun Shopkeepers in Lahore? لاہور میں پختونوں کے ساتھ کیا ہورہا ہے

#Pakistan - The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) announces support for sit-in against target killings in N Waziristan

Manzoor Pashteen warns of similar protest in Wana, Barwand of South Waziristan.

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), while announcing its support to sit in protest against frequent target killing in Miranshah and Mirali of North Waziristan, warned of arranging a similar sit-in Wana and Barwand of South Waziristan from Monday.
Manzoor Pashteen, chief of PTM, on Saturday night announced support for sit-in started by tribesmen from different parts of North Waziristan against frequent acts of target killing in the area. In the latest violent act, political administration official Hamid Ullah Kabalkhel was killed and three personnel of Khasadar forces were injured when unknown militants attacked a vehicle in Kaam Saroobi area on Razmak Road.
Soon after the funeral of Hamid Ullah Kabal Khel on Saturday, tribesmen from all over Miranshah and Mirali decided to resume the six-day sit-in which was last called off on May 18. Within hours hundreds of tribesmen came out of homes and rushed to main Chawk in Mirali and Miranshah whereas they went on a sit. The PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen has directed supporters and workers to participate in the protest.
PTM leader Ali Khan Wazir has said they deputed a team of workers to go and extend every sort of support to protesters in North Waziristan. He said, “Beside frequent target killing, through one or other ways, the PTM workers are also teased and harassed in South Waziristan.”
Wazir informed this scribe, “Yesterday, the government-loyal Taliban snatched caps from PTM workers in Wana, headquarter of South Waziristan, and terrorised them also. Target killing incidents are also taking place in Sarwaiki sub-divisions.” On such grounds, he said they decided of going on a sit-in in both Wana and Barwand, headquarter of Sarwaiki sub-division from Monday.
He said that arrangements regarding sit-in protest in two different places of South Waziristan are in progress. He said that the purpose of the sit-in is to convince the government for realising its responsibilities of protecting lives and properties of people.
The protesting tribesmen in Miranshah and Mirali have demanded an end to target killing, calling for the permission for tribesmen to keep arms for their self-defence.
Meanwhile, personnel of traditional Khasadar forces from North Waziristan also decided to go on protest just to ensure their safety in the new system after the merger of Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Khasadar system was introduced along with the establishment of FATA and enforcement of Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) by previous colonial rulers in 1901. High ups in government departments both in centre and province already announced of adjusting personnel of Khasadar forces, who qualify in the police department.

واڼه: وسله والو يو شمېر ولسي وګړو ته مرګ ژوبله اړولې Wana#

 د جنوبي وزيرستان په مرکز واڼه کې د وسله والو طالبانو په ډزو کې دوه ولسي وګړي وژل شوي او تر ۲۰ زيات ژوبل شوي دي.

په سيمه کې د استخباراتي ادارو چارواکو د مشال راډيو خبریال ته د ډزو په نتيجه کې د دوه مړو پخلی کړی دی. بلخوا پوليټیکل چارواکو د نوم نه څرګندولو په شرط مشال راډیو ته ويلي چې په پېښه کې يو تن مړ او ۱۲ زخميان شوي دي.

په زخميانو کې نورولي نومي يو ځايي خبريال هم شامل دی چې دا وخت د نورو زخميانو ترڅنګ د ډېره اسماعيل خان په مرکزي هسپتال کې تر درملنې لاندې دی.

د ځايي اوسېدونکیو په وینا پیښه هغه وخت وشوه چې وسله والو د پښتون تحفظ تحریک پر يو مشر علي وزير ډزې وکړې. علي وزير هغه وخت په واڼه بازار کې خپل د تېلو پمپ ته ورغلی وو.

تر ډزو سمدستي پس ځايي خلک د علي وزير پمپ کې ورغونډ شول او په وسله والو يی کاڼي وورول. د کاڼو ورولو په ردعمل کې وسله والو مستقیماً پر ځايي خلکو ډزې وکړې چې په نتيجه کې يی مرګ ژوبله وشوه.

د ځايي خلکو په وینا، تر پېښې وروسته په واڼه بازار او شاوخوا سيمو کې کرفیو لګول شوې ده او پوځ او نيم پوځي ځواکونو سيمه په ولکه کې اخیستې ده.

بلخوا په پیښه کې ژوبل شوي کسان د ډېره اسماعيل خان هسپتال ته رسول شوي دي او علاج يی روان دی.

د واڼه د پیښې په غبرګون کې د پښتون تحفظ مومنټ مشرانو په پیښور، اسلام اباد او کوټه کې احتجاج پیل کړی.

د پښتون تحفظ موومنټ یو مشر د اتوار پر شپه ناوخته په اسلام اباد کې احتجاجی غونډې ته د وینا پر مهال په واڼه کې د وسله والو برید وغنده. نوموړي زیاته کړه چې د دوی تحریک په داسې بریدونو نشي درېدای او دوی به د خپلو حقونو د غوښتلو هڅې جاري ساتي.

Once Ruled By Taliban, Residents Of Pakistan's Swat Valley Say Army Should Leave

Diaa Hadid
Once Ruled By Taliban, Residents Of Pakistan's Swat Valley Say Army Should Leave
In the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains, on the bank of the river that courses through the Swat Valley, boys play soccer in a dusty field. When the Pakistani Taliban occupied this valley a decade ago, loyalists trudged to the same riverbank with their own television sets, setting them ablaze in a fiery rejection of Western culture.
But the Taliban embraced other broadcast technology, when it was useful. Yards away, tucked into the low-slung village of Imam Dherai, lies the rubble of a pirate radio station where a preacher, Fazal Hayat, known as Maulana Fazlullah, broadcast his vision of an Islamic utopia in the Swat Valley. Residents nicknamed the charismatic preacher "Mullah Radio." And that is how militants began inching across the Swat Valley in 2004: over the airwaves.
Women donated jewelry to Mullah Radio, who used the donations to help fund a network of religious hardliners. Men offered labor and money to build a seminary and a mosque.
Fazlullah promised Islamic law in Swat; residents — chafing under what they said was a sluggish, corrupt and inept state system — said they were enamored by his promises of swift justice. Young men joined him.
Fearing his messianic influence on their elderly mother, one family sabotaged their radio. "Mother kept asking me to repair it," Iqbal Isakhel, a lawyer who opposed the militants, said with a laugh. "I didn't."
In 2007, Fazlullah led militants in an uprising to avenge a high-profile military operation against a radical mosque in Islamabad. The militants captured key towns in Swat and killed local leaders. Government officials went into hiding.
The militants used the radio station to announce who would be arrested or killed for infractions like adultery and homosexuality that violated their harsh rule. Men and women were whipped in the main square of the valley's largest town, and sometimes the Taliban left bodies hanging off a street light, pinned with notes detailing the peoples' alleged crimes. Girls' schools were targeted in attacks.
The Taliban, based in Imam Dherai, took control of the entire Swat Valley and held power until the Pakistani military retook the area in 2009. But nearly a decade later, the soldiers remain. Military checkpoints dot the roads. Residents say soldiers occupy government buildings in their towns and villages. And they say the military has overstayed its welcome.
"A black chapter"
When a Pakistani airstrike crushed the radio station in 2009, many residents said they cheered. Fazlullah escaped, and now leads the Pakistani Taliban, who remain violently opposed to the Pakistani state.
"It's a black chapter of our history," Waris, a 22-year-old Swat Valley resident, said with a sigh. "We prefer to forget it." He requested NPR only use his first name because he still fears the Taliban.
Still, he pointed out, "There is also our Malala Yousafzai."
Pakistan's Nobel Peace laureate, who recently returned to Swat for the first time since she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, was born and raised here. As a child, she defied the Taliban by calling for girls' education.
Fawad, a 28-year-old activist, said the army routinely points to Swat as a success story. He preferred not to use his full name, to avoid possible repercussions from the military.
"As they are saying, we have established peace in Swat," Fawad said. "We want them to give full authority to civilian government — to police and local government." But security problems remain. On Feb. 3, a suicide bomber with the Pakistani Taliban — the same branch that once ruled Swat — attacked soldiers, killing 11.
And so, says Shahid Latif, a retired air vice marshal, the military must remain as well. He said it is unlikely that the army will ever leave Swat, because police aren't trained properly to deal with the region's security complexities.
"Perhaps some kind of presence of the army, in my opinion, is going to stay there permanently," he said.
Pakistan's army spokesperson declined NPR's repeated requests for interviews.
The "paradise of Pakistan"
Across the river from Imam Dherai is the blaring, blinking Swat Wonderland Amusement Park. It opened two summers ago. It is best reached by crossing the Swat River in a dinky, two-seat chairlift. It is manned by soldiers: they took it over because it was symbolically tied to the Taliban's rule of Swat. Before he was Mullah Radio, Fazlullah was the chairlift operator.
At the park, young women shrieked as they swung wildly on a carousel. They pressed their veils to their faces, worried they'd fly away. Iqbal Asad, 26, a dental assistant, brought his two-year-old nephew Sahil Khan for a fun day. This, he said, gesturing to rides, showed "life is going well here."
"Swat — it's called the paradise of Pakistan," he said. "It's the Switzerland of Pakistan."
Foreign tourism was once a mainstay of the local economy and residents hope to revive it, but they've hit some obstacles.
In 2016, a company opened a ski resort. Workers are widening the perilous mountain route where cars inch along crumbly tracks over steep gorges.
Traffic was also slowed by soldiers checking IDs. For foreigners, they wanted to see the military permission slips that must be obtained to enter Swat. Kalimullah, a tour guide who only uses one name, said the army's permission was often a stumbling block for foreign tour groups who wanted to visit, though domestic tourists are arriving. At the ski resort, Pakistani tourists tumbled out of small vans, gleefully posing for selfies. Children hurled themselves in melting spring snow, flinging icy balls around a stout snowman.
There was more checking to cross a military zone that lies along the route to another tourist attraction: a 7th century rock-face carving of a Buddha above the village of Jahanabad. It was restored by a team of Italian archaeologists in 2016, nine years after the Taliban badly damaged the face with explosives.
A soldier took down all the visitors' details, and then provided a mandatory escort of two soldiers. Kalimullah said the presence of soldiers tended to frighten foreign tourists. He said he was grateful that the army had bought peace to Swat, but escorting tourists — "it is work of police." "I think [the] army should go back," he said. "This is not work of army."
Down in the valley, Fawad said some residents did not feel safe around the army. "We don't see ourselves as secure," he said.
In his hometown, he said soldiers occupied government buildings, including the girls' school, the agricultural office, several hostels – and a relative's house.
Referring to the army, he said, "They are not leaving."

'Everybody Is Scared': Pakistani Media Fighting -- And Losing -- Battle With 'Extreme' Censorship

Military rule, religious extremism, and war have long made Pakistan one of the world's toughest beats for journalists.
But Pakistani reporters say 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.
The developments are threatening the independence of the already depleted ranks of free-press torchbearers, who have come under pressure from the all-powerful army, hard-line religious groups, and militant groups.

Threats, Kidnapping

Prominent Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui 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."
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 Prize, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for his coverage of Pakistan.
Siddiqui is known in his homeland for his critical reporting on the military, which has an oversized role in domestic and foreign affairs in the South Asian country.
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 Pakistani military and its notorious intelligence services have long been accused of stifling independent media and silencing opposition through intimidation, censorship, and even assassination.

'Muzzling Of Debate'

Pakistani media have come under unprecedented pressure in recent months.
Since May 15, the distribution of the country's oldest newspaper, 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.
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.
Meanwhile, 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 quashing of articles that cover antigovernment protests by the Pashtun ethnic minority, toward 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.

'Extreme Level Of Censorship'

Some journalists have resorted to self-censorship to keep their jobs and remain safe.
"Everyone is exercising self-censorship and even I was doing the same," says Siddiqui. "Only those media and journalists who toe the line or observe self-censorship can survive and continue their professional work without threat."

Pakistan ranks 139th out of 180 countries listed on the World Press Freedom Index 2017, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, and threats to journalists are growing.
Raza Rumi, a TV anchor and respected reporter, narrowly escaped death when gunmen opened fire on his car in an attack that killed his driver in March 2014.
He is an outspoken critic of militant groups in Pakistan and the army's alleged support for militant groups in neighboring India and Afghanistan.
Shortly after the assassination attempt, Rumi moved to the United States, where he has continued his career as an editor for Pakistan's Daily Times.
"There is an extreme level of censorship being applied to media," says Rumi, who is based in New York. "There are no formal directives, but everybody has seen the fate of two major media outlets, Geo and Dawn, and everybody is scared of crossing the line."
Rumi is planning to visit Pakistan again for the first time since the attack on his life. But he insists he cannot work as a reporter in Pakistan in the current climate.
"I'm scared and do not feel very comfortable," he says. "The killers of my driver have been detained but not punished yet."
Fear of retribution even haunts journalists who have fled Pakistan.
Cyril Almeida, a leading columnist and assistant editor at Dawn, was barred from leaving the country in 2016 shortly after he wrote an article about a rift between the government and the military. He left for New York when the government order was lifted weeks later.



Amid disquiet over deepening China ties, Islamabad mulls the release of Shakil Afridi – who helped the CIA capture and kill the world’s most wanted man – as it seeks a way back into Washington’s embrace.
The anticipation around the possible release of an imprisoned Pakistani doctor may coincide with a thaw in the South Asian nation’s relations with its traditional ally, the United States, and disquiet over the financial hazards of deepening ties with China.
In the corridors of power in Islamabad, there is a growing expectation that Pakistan could free Shakil Afridi – who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden – as part of a goodwill gesture towards the US. Pakistani sources said Islamabad is not averse to using Afridi as a bargaining chip to mend fences with Washington. The two sides are said to be in talks over Afridi, who has been languishing in a jail in Peshawar since 2011 due to his alleged links with militants.
Jail authorities recently shifted Afridi to an unknown location, fuelling the speculation he may be released soon. His lawyer, Qamar Nadeem, confirmed the transfer but said he was not sure where his client had been taken.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office has, however, denied knowledge of any move to free Afridi. Rumours include Washington offering to exchange Afridi for Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who has been sentenced to 86 years in prison in the United States. Russian news agency Sputnik recently ran a story quoting sources claiming the CIA had tried to stage a prison break to rescue Afridi.
Pakistan accuses Afridi of treason for running a fake vaccine campaign to obtain DNA samples that helped the Americans confirm the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad in northern Pakistan.
It caused immense embarrassment to Pakistan, which had denied knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts. His vaccine campaign paved the way for a US Navy Seal raid that killed the world’s most wanted man in May 2011. A tribunal sentenced him to 33 years in prison for ties with terrorists. His sentence was reduced to 23 years in 2014.
Contrary to Pakistan’s claim, The Spy Chronicles , a recent book co-authored by the former spy masters of Pakistan and India, revealed the US took General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, into confidence two days before the raid. The book also said a retired Pakistani intelligence officer may have informed the Americans about bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan in return for a possible reward of US$50 million.
The US, where Afridi is something of a hero for helping locate bin Laden, had termed his conviction “unjust and unwarranted”. Pakistan sees him as a traitor who violated the law of the land and compromised its sovereignty. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed to expedite Afridi’s release. Last week, he told Congress: “I don’t see any reason whatsoever to give the government of Pakistan any money … in terms of our foreign aid until Dr Afridi, the man who helped us bring justice to Osama bin Laden, [is released].
“Please be aware that it’s at my heart and I know it’s important and we can do that. We can achieve that outcome.”
Afridi’s continued imprisonment has been a point of contention between Islamabad and Washington, which believes the indictment is proof of Pakistan’s insincerity in the fight against terror. Pakistan, on the other hand, still bears a grudge against the US for violating its sovereignty by co-opting Afridi and conducting the raid on bin Laden’s compound without informing Pakistani authorities.
Since 2011, US assistance to Pakistan has diminished. Since Donald Trump became president, the US has hardened its stance towards Pakistan, halting aid and grants to its erstwhile ally. Pakistan’s refusal to release Afridi prompted US lawmakers to suggest even tougher measures against Pakistan for working against US interests. Since 2002, the US has provided Pakistan with nearly US$33.1 billion in foreign aid, including approximately US$3.9 billion in foreign military financing.
In his first tweet this year, Trump announced Pakistan would receive no more US assistance: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Pakistan has since cosied up to its “all-weather friend” China, which in turn has been showering it with development aid. But last year, international lending institutions and Pakistan’s central bank warned the Pakistani government that rising Chinese imports for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of Beijing’s global trade “Belt and Road Initiative”, had deepened Pakistan’s balance of payments problems. Chinese machinery imports for power generation and transport infrastructure are expected to reach US$27.8 billion by 2021.
Islamabad announced last year that projects worth US$16 billion are expected to be implemented by 2030, which will raise the overall cost of the CPEC from US$46 billion to US$55 billion.
Pakistan would reportedly have to pay US$90 billion to China over 30 years against the loan and investment portfolio worth US$50 billion under the CPEC. In a report last year, Topline Securities estimated annual average repayments of as much as US$4 billion after 2020.
Analysts warn that would be too rich for an economy of Pakistan’s size. This has led to talks over the pitfalls of substituting the US with China and the need for Pakistan to make amends with its old ally.
“Pakistan needs to repair ties with the US, which has pumped billion of US dollars in aid over the years,” said Mustansar Abbas, an expert on security and defence.
Sohail Iqbal Bhatti, another defence and security expert, believes China will not provide a viable replacement for American aid.
“Shaking hands with the US is in the better interests of 220 million Pakistanis,” said Sohail, pointing out that Pakistan has had to pull out of a dam project because of the high funding costs.
“Pakistan’s dependence on China is bound to increase and we understand it. But Pakistani authorities must keep in mind it would be a double-edged sword and comes with its own problems.” Pakistani experts are also urging reconciliation with the US to avoid isolation internationally, which would only make Pakistan more reliant on China.
First Trump, then China: as Pakistan loses support, it should lose the pretence on cross-border terror “It would make it far easier for China to advance its projects on its own terms,” said Mohammad Iqbal, an assistant professor of international relations at the Punjab University. Currently, Pakistan is seeking Chinese loans worth as much as US$2 billion to help avert a balance of payments crisis. Lending to Pakistan by China and its commercial banks is on track to hit US$5 billion in the financial year ending this month.
The new Chinese loans aim to bolster Pakistan’s rapidly depleting foreign exchange reserves, which tumbled to US$10.3 billion in May from US$16.4 billion in May 2017. In a recent editorial warning the government about Chinese loans, Pakistan’s most influential newspaper Dawn said: “Borrowing on commercial terms from state-owned Chinese banks as a way to finance the growing external sector deficit is fast becoming the new norm, a fact that has very troubling implications for the country.” ■

The Generals and the Art of Undermining Democracy in Pakistan

By Abbas Nasir
On Friday Pakistan moved toward its second democratic transition of power in its 71-year-old history as Nasirul Mulk, a retired judge, was sworn in as caretaker prime minister for two months to preside over national elections on July 25. He was jointly nominated by the governing party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the opposition.
In a country where generals have directly ruled for 31 years, this would qualify as a cause for celebration. Instead, Pakistanis see the return of “tutelary democracy,” as the military disempowers politicians who stray from its positions on foreign policy and national security, supports a new king’s party and punishes the press for providing fair coverage to its perceived opponents.
The current season of troubles began in April 2016 after the Panama Papers had named then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three children as having purchased luxury properties in London using offshore companies. Mr. Sharif’s name did not appear in the papers. Opposition politicians, including Imran Khan, the former cricket star, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Party is seen as the military’s favorite, took the case to the Supreme Court.
Tensions between the civilian government and the military establishment escalated in October 2016 after Mr. Sharif began asserting himself on foreign policy and national security, which the military considers its domain. In April 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan set up a team to investigate the allegations against Mr. Sharif and his family arising out of the Panama Papers. Surprisingly, the investigative team included officials from Pakistan’s spy agencies — Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence. Three months later, the Supreme Court disqualified Mr. Sharif from holding public office on account of a misdeclaration. The court ruled that Mr. Sharif had not been “honest” and “truthful” — necessary conditions to hold public office, according to the Constitution of Pakistan. He resigned as prime minister. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a minister from his party, was appointed in his place. Mr. Sharif and his family members are being tried for corruption in a lower court.
Mr. Sharif understands the ways of tutelary democracy well because his party was the military favorite in the 1980s, when Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq promoted him.
The relations between Mr. Sharif and the military worsened after the publication of a report in Dawn, the oldest and most respected newspaper in Pakistan, in October 2016. The newspaper revealed that Mr. Sharif, and his younger brother and aide Shahbaz Sharif, had warned the military leadership of Pakistan’s growing international isolation because of its continued support of militant groups. Mr. Sharif had already refused to extend the retiring army chief’s term in office. The generals were livid that the rebuke was leaked to the media. The military whipped up hysteria over the report, which appeared in Dawn, implying that Mr. Sharif’s government was toeing the line of adversarial foreign powers and demanded that the source of the leak be named. Social media users and television personalities known for their proximity to the intelligence services vilified Mr. Sharif’s government; Dawn; its editor, Zaffar Abbas; and the writer Cyril Almeida. Numerous young army officers, whose colleagues were killed fighting the Taliban on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, believed the rhetoric about the treacherous civilian leadership and journalists. They confronted the military leadership and demanded that they act against what they felt were treasonous civilians.
Mr. Sharif’s government was forced to order an inquiry. Federal ministers, Mr. Abbas and Mr. Almeida were questioned. The journalists refused to reveal their sources. Subsequently, a new army chief was named and a tenuous calm followed.
But the military hadn’t forgotten or forgiven Mr. Sharif. The investigation by a team that included intelligence officers into the Panama Papers allegations paved the way for Mr. Sharif’s ouster. Despite losing his job and being barred from contesting elections, Mr. Sharif remained popular and exercised power through Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the prime minister he got appointed, and through his younger brother, who heads his party.
Two months before the elections, a concerted campaign by the military establishment seems underway to engineer the political process to ensure that Mr. Sharif can’t even exercise power vicariously and is relegated to history. In the past few weeks, there has been a series of defections from Mr. Sharif’s party to Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.
Officials from the intelligence services have been making threatening calls to journalists objecting to accurate reporting of Mr. Sharif and his family’s corruption trial. Journalists at one newspaper told me that they had received phone calls objecting to their reporting on the defense counsel’s pointing out of inaccuracies and gaps in the testimony of Wajid Zia, a top officer of the country’s Federal Investigation Agency and the prosecution’s star witness against the Sharifs.
The military has also been unhappy about the peaceful, widespread protests by young Pashtuns and their articulate questions about disappearances, extrajudicial killings and mistreatment of their people during counterinsurgency operations in northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. The media was told to completely black out the Pashtun movement. Jang Group, Pakistan’s largest media group, which runs several newspapers and Geo Television, the leading news network, took a defiant posture for months. Intelligence operatives got cable operators to force the network off air in most parts of the country. The network’s ratings and advertising revenue fell, and it was unable to pay its staff for three months. Eventually, the network capitulated and settled on the military’s terms.
Dawn remained the lone voice of defiance and independent journalism. Pakistan’s military is one of the biggest real estate developers in the country, and it owns or runs some of the most upmarket residential areas in all major urban centers. The circulation of Dawn is being impeded in those areas where a large number of its readers may reside. News agents are being warned against distributing the paper in the rural Pakistan as well. Real estate giants such as the military-controlled Defense Housing Authority have withheld advertisements from Dawn as a punitive measure.
On Wednesday, Hameed Haroon, the chief executive of Dawn and the president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, spoke about the “blatant attacks on the freedoms of expression” by the state institutions: “We will not be a party to the upturning of the Article 19 of the Constitution. And we will not be a party to the killing of the freedom of expression in the country.” But Mr. Haroon’s newspaper is being choked to force it to its knees or die. That would be a tragedy as it is about the only media organization in Pakistan where editorial decisions are made by journalists and not by the owners. I edited the paper from 2006 to 2010.
Zaffar Abbas, my friend and successor, survived two murderous attacks earlier in his career and more recently received death threats. He has continued publishing the paper without flinching. But the emerging scenario seems scarier.
An unfair and disputed election would unleash turbulence that Pakistan could well do without. The Pakistani people have suffered terribly in the past two decades of pitiless terrorism and war. They deserve to be governed by representatives elected in a free and fair election. And they deserve a robust press — one that raises necessary questions.