Thursday, July 12, 2018
This shatters the narrative that Pakistan has been able to manage the security situation because those at the risk of being attacked are still being attacked. This is exactly what we have witnessed in the case of ANP, where the party has to carefully plan out its movement and refrain from large political gatherings in order to protect themselves and their followers. The party has restricted its canvassing to corner meetings and door to door meetings but these extremists have managed to sabotage them too.
There is absolutely no excuse for why only two police officers accompanied Haroon Biolur despite the imminent threat the party faces. There were reports of threats for party leaders but there was a huge security lapse. It is time we question the statement made by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) while taking away the security protocol that terrorist attacks do not make a difference because we all have to die one day. That day came too soon for Haroon Bilour and his late father as well.
This is exactly why parties like the ANP exist - to push the extremist narrative where it belongs because it ends up taking lives. ANP’s history is a history of struggle against the Taliban and this incident is a huge question mark upon the efficiency of the security agencies and the state. This incident is a reminder that the principled position against the mainstreaming of extremist narratives is correct because it helps breed individuals who are inhumane in their outlook. It is unfair to the scores of sacrifices made by our own citizens and parties like the ANP.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai described as “cruel” a policy launched by U.S. President Donald Trump to separate children of illegal immigrants from their families, during her first visit to South America to promote girls’ education.
Her stern words contrasted with her effusive praise last year for Canada’s embrace of refugees under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, Malala also questioned Trump’s record on women’s rights. Yousafzai, known widely by her first name, was visiting Rio de Janeiro to kick off the expansion of her education charity, the Malala Fund, into Latin America, starting with Brazil.
Her aim in Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, is to advocate for more public spending on education, a tall task after the country passed a constitutional amendment freezing federal spending in real terms for two decades in order to reduce public debt.
She also hopes to get an estimated 1.5 million girls currently not in school into the classroom, with a special focus on minority groups who lag white children on key indicators like literacy and secondary school completion.
“It is important for us to reach the indigenous and the Afro-Brazilian population in Brazil. Those girls are facing many challenges,” Malala said in an interview.
In 2014, Malala was made the world’s youngest Nobel laureate, honored for her work with her foundation, a charity she set up to support education advocacy groups with a focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya. The group’s Brazil presence kicked off with a $700,000 three-year grant for three Brazilian female activists focused on education issues. Malala says she hopes to expand elsewhere in Latin America.
Earlier this year, the 20-year-old returned home to Pakistan for the first time since a Taliban gunman shot her in the head in 2012 over her blog advocating girls’ education.
Weeks ahead of presidential elections in Pakistan, Malala is ruling out politics for herself for now.
“I’m still talking to leaders and ensuring that they prioritize education in their policy,” she said. “It’s easier that way than when you’re on the inside.”
The current campaign against the media involves many elements of overt coercion, including severe disruptions of the distribution network of independent newspapers and the blocking of broadcasts of dissenting television news channels. Is this “business as usual”? Not quite. Recently, the military has embarked on a campaign to remake the political landscape by depicting the leaders of certain political parties as corrupt or hostile to national security. The result of this “decapitation strategy” has been the destruction of the careers of several prominent members of the civilian political leadership — largely, though not exclusively, confined to the Pakistan Muslim League, the ruling party. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the party, was subsequently forced to step down as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in a corruption case. (On July 6, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges.) Pakistan is ruled by a caretaker administration, as stipulated by our constitution. Yet current Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk has not taken any action to respond to the growing clamor in the national media or to persuade the military to halt coercive measures.
So has the military succeeded in using this crackdown on the media to neutralize its civilian political enemies? Once again, not quite. Sharif, though barred from future political life by the Supreme Court, has been addressing mammoth political rallies in his home province, thus posing a clear challenge to the campaign currently pursued by state institutions. This is the main challenge confronting the security establishment as it works to shape and ultimately dominate the environment of the coming elections. Those in power have devised a new approach for dealing with this apparently chaotic situation. Eager to maintain the facade of caretaker civilian rule, the authorities have refrained from direct censorship. Yet military officials have found other ways to assault constitutionally guaranteed media freedoms. Moves to disrupt newspaper distribution have been accompanied by a series of attacks on dissenting journalists (including sporadic abductions). In June, unknown assailants kidnapped Gul Bukhari, a prominent journalist, and detained her for several hours. The same night, broadcast journalist Asad Kharal was assaulted in public in Lahore. A senior military official prepared the way for this by identifying certain journalists, news channel anchors and social activists as enemies of national security. His statement clearly aimed to put reporters in harm’s way, and led immediately to intense campaigns of harassment on social media. Not surprisingly, newspaper columnists have begun to complain that editors are dropping their articles, and several have resorted to publicizing their rejected commentaries through popular social media platforms. Is this all new for observers of censorship in countries in South Asia and the Gulf region? Actually, yes. We are now witnessing a new form of quasi-military censorship that is astonishingly aggressive in using both threats and coercion. The inevitable result of this program of intimidation is a culture of widespread self-censorship. Zaffar Abbas, the editor of Dawn — one of the leading independent newspapers currently being targeted — has described these self-imposed restrictions as “far more suffocating than martial law.” As Pakistan works its way toward the July 25 elections, the twin strategy of culling the political leadership and curtailing the electorate’s access to information appears to be paying off for the military. But there are signs that this could backfire. The electorate is feeling increasingly abused. The curtain of secrecy drawn on censorship decisions by military officials is slowly crumbling under the impact of increased public awareness of the intimidation campaign. Is there a way forward? Clearly, if Pakistan is to function as a meaningful democracy, the country’s security establishment will have to review its policy of restricting media freedom. The caretakers must adopt impeccable conduct, and the military leadership would be well advised to adopt a strategy of restraint. Otherwise the prospects for democracy in Pakistan appear to be decidedly bleak.
The Supreme Court put to rest on Thursday reports that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur had been barred from leaving the country for their alleged involvement in suspicious transactions through 29 ‘benami’ accounts in mainstream banks.
As a two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed hearing of the suo motu notice into the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) probe of a Rs 35 billion money laundering scam, the bench clarified that neither was Zardari summoned in person nor was the brother-sister duo placed on the exit control list (ECL).
Contrary to the CJP’s statement on Thursday, caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan had confirmed on Wednesday that the SC had directed the ministry to place Zardari and Talpur’s names on the ECL on Monday, and that the ministry had complied with the orders.
In Thursday’s hearing, the CJP also ordered the FIA to refrain from questioning both PPP leaders until after the July 25 polls. “Tomorrow no one should be able to make excuses that the elections have been rigged,” he said. However, before the elections, all suspects apart from Zardari and Talpur should be included in the investigation, he said. The defence counsels should have approached the apex court if they had reservations about the top court’s orders, he added. The CJP then inquired from the attorney general that if its order doesn’t mention Zardari’s placement on the ECL, how such reports were aired in the media. The chief justice added that only those persons were ordered to be on the no-fly list who have criminal cases registered against them. The bench also wondered that since Zardari was just a suspect, how could he be placed on the ECL. He also remarked that it will direct the FIA not to display bias against anyone during the investigation as it only seeks a transparent inquiry into the corruption scandal.
Zardari’s counsel Farooq Naek told media after the hearing that the bench observed that it does not want the election transparency affected. “This is all being done to bring a bad name to the PPP,” he claimed, referring to the mega scandal. He also clarified that the PPP supremo has no association with the Zardari Pvt Ltd – which is being probed by the FIA in the scam.
Naek said that he informed the court of their reservations against FIA’s joint investigation team head Najam Mirza, adding that the chief justice has assured them that he will keep these issues in mind. Answering a question, Naek blamed the media for creating a hype about the ECL issue. He, however, admitted that there was a confusion in the earlier order of the court regarding the placement of names on the ECL, which has now been clarified.
The FIA is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, under which Zardari’s close aide and Pakistan Stock Exchange Chairman Hussain Lawai was also arrested earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Zardari and Faryal had informed the FIA in Karachi that they would reply to its notice in the scam after the July 25 elections.