Thursday, January 10, 2019

Arabic Music - Nancy Ajram - Ah W Noss ) / نانسي عجرم - فيديو كليب اه و نص

Video Report - #SaveRahaf: What will become of Saudi teen?

EDITORIAL: Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun and Asia Bibi — two cases that deserve our attention

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun says she was fleeing an abusive home in Saudi Arabia and planning to make her way to Australia when she was stopped in a Bangkok airport and detained by authorities who planned to return her to her family.
But now the 18-year-old is under UN protection in Thailand and seeking asylum, stating her family punished her for things as minor as cutting her hair and she wants to leave them, her country, and her Islamic religion.
Mohammed had been held by authorities in an airport hotel room while they awaited her father, but she barricaded herself inside and took to social media to broadcast live updates of her ordeal. She made direct appeals to people around the world, including Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah, who spun into action and advocated for the young woman.
“Fortunately, the pressure of ordinary citizens using social media saved the life of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun who is today free and may soon be in Canada as our beloved fellow citizen, sister and daughter,” Fatah wrote in his latest column.
It now seems more likely that she will be granted refugee status in Australia after all, but Canada was her other request.
“I want Canada to give me asylum!” she tweeted during what was the late hours of Monday night here in Canada.
While the particulars of her story are unconfirmed, Mohammed certainly seems a model case for refugee status. She renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.
Likewise the case of Asia Bibi, who faced violent protests after being acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan after initially having been sentenced to death. The Christian woman had faced unsubstantiated accusations of insulting the Prophet Mohammad and the Quran.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was right to speak out in Bibi’s defence and say we would do what we could for her. At present, Bibi is apparently still in Pakistan but in a safe place.
These are just two examples of individuals who face imprisonment, punishment and even death because of their beliefs or lifestyles, and Canada does and should continue to welcome those fleeing intolerance, oppression and harm. That doesn’t mean our border is meaningless. It means we must use our hearts and our heads when offering sanctuary to those in need.

#RahafAlQanun, - 'You saved Rahaf's life': online outcry kept 'terrified' Saudi woman safe, says friend

Jamie Fullerton and Helen Davidson
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was buoyed by thousands of messages during Thai ordeal, says Nourah Alharbi.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the Saudi Arabian woman who fled her family and is now under UN protection in Thailand, has been sustained through the “terrifying” ordeal by thousands of online messages of support that probably saved her life, a friend has said.
Nourah Alharbi, 20, told the Guardian: “Yesterday, they [social media supporters] made the difference in Rahaf’s life. You saved Rahaf’s life yesterday: the people, the media.”Speaking on Tuesday morning, Alharbi said Qunun was buoyed when she saw how many messages about her were being posted online. “She couldn’t believe it. Today when I was calling her ... [she said] she can see the thousands of messages, all of them supporting her. She’s terrified and stressed, and when she saw the messages it really made a difference for her.”
Now based in Sydney, Alharbi said she fled Saudi Arabia herself after suffering abuse from her family, and is seeking asylum in Australia. She has kept in close contact with Qunun throughout her ordeal.
She mentioned the case of Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman who in April 2017 was returned to Saudi Arabia from the Philippines against her will and whose fate is unclear. “She didn’t get that [social media] support and that’s why she’s in Saudi Arabia now – she’s disappeared,” Alharbi said.
On Sunday, Qunun, 18, barricaded herself in a hotel room inside Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to prevent her forcible return to a family she claimed would kill her, following her renouncing of Islam.
She tweeted about her situation, and the Twitter hashtag #SaveRahaf soon gained support. Supporters demanded she stay in Thailand rather than be returned to Kuwait, the point of her departure, and lobbied governments to offer her asylum.Alharbi said Qunun was keen to leave the country after hearing reports her father had travelled to Thailand but that she felt safe for the time being. “She called me and said the UN were good and were protecting her,” she said. “Security keep coming and asking about her. She wants to tell everyone that she wants to go outside Thailand – to any safe country.”
Alharbi claimed Australia had cancelled the tourist visa on which Qunun was originally travelling. “I don’t know [the reason] because they’re not answering,” she said. The Australian government is yet to respond to the claim.
Urging people to keep posting messages about Qunun, Alharbi said: “Yesterday we won, but this is not the big winning. We got her out [of the airport] but we win when we get her out from Thailand. And we will, properly.”Qunun was interviewed by staff from the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR on Tuesday, after they met her on Monday. “It could take several days to process the case and determine next steps,” UNHCR’s Thailand representative Giuseppe de Vincentiis said in a statement. “We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her,” he said.The Australian government said on Tuesday it would “carefully consider” Qunun’s asylum application after the UNHCR process has concluded.Qunun was detained on arrival at Bangkok and denied entry to Thailand while en route to Australia, where she said she intended to seek asylum. The Guardian confirmed on Monday Qunun had a valid three-month tourist visa for Australia, issued to her Saudi passport.
Qunun said she was abducted after arriving in Bangkok and had her passport confiscated by Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff.
She demanded access to the UNHCR and barricaded herself inside her hotel room in fear she would be forced on to a plane after Kuwait Airways officials had come to her door, but Monday’s 11.15am flight departed without her.
In a short press release distributed to media outside its embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday, the Saudi government said it had not demanded her deportation, adding the case is a “family affair”, but under the “care and attention” of the embassy. The head of Thailand’s immigration police, General Surachate Hakparn, had previously said Qunun would be sent back to Saudi Arabia because she was “unsafe” without a guardian in Thailand, and claimed she did not have the documentation to go on to Australia. But late on Monday he promised she would not be deported and agreed to consult the UNCHR. He later said she had been taken to a safe house for her asylum claim to be processed. “If she goes home it will be dangerous for her so Thailand is ready to help,” he told media. “We are working with the foreign affairs ministry and UNHCR and today we will allow her entry to Thailand. UNHCR is now taking care of her and working on her asylum claim.” Surachate said Qunun’s father and brother had arrived in Bangkok and want to talk to her, but that UN officials would need to approve any such meeting. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said it was monitoring the case closely. “The claims made by Ms Al-Qunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning,” a spokesman said on Monday night.
On Tuesday a Department of Home Affairs official told AFP: “Any application by Ms Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded.” Qunun said in a video posted on social media from inside the airport that she was trying to escape from her family because they subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. She has appealed for help from Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.
Her case has brought international attention to the obstacles women face in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom also faces intense scrutiny over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has renewed criticism of its human rights record.

Video - Malala Yousafzai - Helping Refugee Girls with “We Are Displaced” & Malala Fund | The Daily Show

Pashto Music - Speeni Spoogmai wa ya Ashna ba charta we na

علیمہ خان کی امریکی ریاست نیو جرسی میں بھی جائیداد نکل آئی

وزیراعظم عمران خان کی ہمشیرہ علیمہ خان جنہیں پاکستان میں ٹیکس حکام سے متحدہ عرب امارات میں موجود پرتعیش فلیٹ چھپانے پر مقدمہ کا سامنا ہے۔ ان کی امریکا میں بھی جائیداد ہے۔ امریکی پراپرٹی ریکارڈ کے مطابق ریاست نیوجرسی میں تین فلیٹوں پر مشتمل چار منزلہ عمارت کی بھی وہ مالک ہیں۔ انہیں فروخت کرنے میں ناکامی کے بعد مالی سال 2018 میں انہیں ظاہرکیا گیا۔ تاہم انہوں نے اپنی فروخت شدہ جائیدادیں ظاہر نہیں کیں۔ امارات میں اپنا فلیٹ ظاہر نہ کرنے پر انہیں سپریم کورٹ میں مقدمےکا سامنا ہے۔ واضح رہے کہ لندن فلیٹ کی مالک آف شور کمپنی نیازی سروسز کی آفیشل دستاویزات میں علیمہ خان کو کمپنی کی واحد ڈائریکٹر دکھایا گیا ہے ۔ تاہم پاناما پیپرز افشا کے وقت جس کا سلسلہ 2010 سے جاری تھا نیو جرسی امریکا میں جائیداد کاروباری شراکت دار کے ساتھ مشترکہ ملکیت تھی۔ کاروباری شراکت دار نے پراپرٹی فروخت کرنے سے انکار کردیا تھا۔ علیمہ خان امریکا میں اپنی جائیداد فروخت کرنے میں ناکام رہیں جو ظاہر ہوکر اب سامنے آئی ہے۔ یہ پراپرٹی دریائے ہڈسن سے 400میٹرز، مین ہٹن سے 4کلومیٹرز اور وال اسٹریٹ سے 3کلومیٹرز کے فاصلے پر واقع ہے۔ یہ عمارت 2004میں امریکی شہریوں پریبولا ،کیتھ اینڈ سوزن اور ایٹلز سے خریدی گئی جسے 30جون 2017کو ختم ہونے والے مالی سال تک ظاہر نہیں کیا گیا تھا۔ علیمہ خان نے اپریل 2016 میں پاناما پیپرز کے حوالے سے انکشافات کے بعد دی نیوز کی درجنوں ای میلز اور پیغامات کا کوئی جواب نہیں دیا۔ جن میں ان کے امریکا، برطانیہ اور متحدہ عرب امارات میں اثاثوں کے بارے میں استفسار کیا گیا ا ور جواب دینے کے بجائے انہوں نے اپنے اثاثے اور جائیدادیں فروخت کرنے کی کوششیں شروع کردیں۔ تاکہ بظاہر یہ دعویٰ کرسکیں کہ جب میڈیا عدالت میں سوال اٹھایا گیا تو ان کی کوئی ان سے پاکستان میںکوئی جائیداد نہیں تھی۔ ٹیکس حکام کو 30 جون 2017 تک آگاہ نہیں کیا گیا تھا۔ ان کے ٹیکس گوشوارے بتاتے ہیں کہ وہ سالانہ معمولی ٹیکس ادا کرتی رہی ہیں۔ وزیراعظم دفتر کا کہنا ہے کہ یہ نیا پاکستان ہے جس میں وزیراعظم کے اعزاء اور اقرباء اپنے کئے کے خود ذمہ دار ہیں اور حکومت کا اس سے کوئی لینا دینا نہیں ہے۔ سرکاری دستاویزات میں علیمہ خان کو نیازی سروسز لمیٹڈ کا ڈائریکٹر دکھایا گیا جبکہ عمران خان کا کوئی ذکر نہیں ہے۔ امریکا میں علیمہ خان کی جائیداد کا پتہ 154، سکستھ اسٹریٹ، ہوبوکن سٹی، نیو جرسی (این جے 17030-) ہے۔ یہ جائیداد اپنے شراکت دار کے ساتھ علیمہ خان (علیمہ خانم) نے 5اگست 2004کو خریدی۔ دستاویزات میں اس کی قیمت 7لاکھ 58ہزار ڈالرز ظاہر کی گئی ہے جس کے مطابق مذکورہ جائیداد میں 75فیصد ملکیت علیمہ خان اور باقی 25فیصد کا حصہ دار ان کی شراکت دار ہے۔ اس کی موجودہ مارکیٹ قیمت 30لاکھ ڈالرز (تقریباً 45کروڑ روپے ) ہے ۔ بعدازاں اسے رہن رکھ کر علیمہ خان اور ان کے بیٹے شاہ ریز نے قرضے حاصل کئے۔ اس کے لئے شاہ ریز نے اپنی والدہ کے سابق کاروباری شراکت دار کا پاور آف اٹارنی بھی استعمال کیا۔ شاہ ریز علیمہ خان اور سہیل امیر خان کے بڑے بیٹے ہیں ۔ جنوری 2018کے ریکارڈ کے مطابق شاہ ریز نے پراپرٹی کے لئے رابطہ کار کا کردار ادا کیا۔ گوکہ علیمہ خان نے دنیا کے مختلف ممالک میں پرتعیش جائدادیں خریدیں لیکن پاکستان کے اندر اپنے ٹیکس گوشواروں میں کبھی ظاہر نہیں کیا۔ انہوں نے 2011تا 2016بالترتیب 107960، 188000، 140000، 158900، 186620 اور 130794 روپے ٹیکس کی مد میں ادا کئے۔ علیمہ خان نے شوکت خانم کینسر اسپتال اور نمل کے لئے عطیاتی مہم کے سلسلے میں گزشتہ 20 سال کے دوران مختلف ممالک کے دورے کئے ۔ انہوں نے ای میل، واٹس ایپ اور ایس ایم ایس کے ذریعے رابطوں کے لئے متواتر کوششوں کا کوئی جواب نہیں دیا، البتہ ان کے دو بیٹوں، وکیل اور چند قریبی ذرائع سے بات ہوئی۔ علیمہ خان کے چھوٹے بیٹے شیرشاہ خان نے استفسار پر کہا کہ پوچھے گئے سوالات کا صرف ان کی والدہ ہی جواب دے سکتی ہیں۔ تاہم بڑے بیٹے شاہ ریز خان نے بتایا کہ ہوبوکن میں املاک کی موجودہ ملکیت کے بارے میں انہیں کوئی علم نہیں ہے۔ وہ اس نمائدنے کا رابطہ نمبر والدہ کی سابق کاروباری شراکت کار کو دے دیں گے جو جائیداد کی موجودہ صورتحال کے بارے میں بتا سکتی ہیں۔ جب شاہ ریز سے کہا گیا کہ وہ امریکا میں تو اپنی والدہ کے رابطہ کار تھے۔ ان کا موقف تھا کہ علیمہ خان نے دستاویزات کے لئے اس وقت نام دیا ہوگا لیکن اب ان کے پاس بتانے کے لئے کوئی تفصیل نہیں ہے۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ وہ کچھ عرصہ امریکا میں رہے لیکن ایک سال ہوا پاکستان واپس آگئے ہیں۔ علیمہ خان کے وکیل سلمان اکرم راجا نے کہا کہ ان کے موکل کو 30لاکھ روپے جمع کرانے کے لئے کہا گیا جو جرمانہ نہیں بلکہ ریگولرائزیشن فیس ہے۔ استفسار پر وزیراعظم کے خصوصی معاون افتخار درانی نے کہا کہ وزیراعظم اپنے رشتہ داروں کے نجی امور کے ذمہ دار نہیں ہیں۔ علیمہ خان کا نام آف شور کمپنی نیازی سروسز کے رجسٹرڈ ڈائریکٹر کی حیثیت سے بھی دیا گیا ہے۔ یہ کمپنی لندن میں عمران خان کے فلیٹ کی مالک ہے۔ دستاویزات میں اس کا ذکر نہیں ہے۔ تاہم 2001میں سابق صدر جنرل (ر) پرویز مشرف کی جاری کردہ ٹیکس ایمنسٹی اسکیم اور سالانہ گوشواروں میں اس کو ظاہر کیا گیا۔

#Pakistan - Still nothing to show for: on Imran Khan's performance so far as PM

By S. Akbar Zaidi 

Imran Khan appears to be banking on the establishment to help him and Pakistan out of its economic crisis

In October last year, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in a public address stated that Pakistanis should stop worrying, “Ghabrain nahinhausla rakhain(do not worry, have fortitude).” But after five months of waiting for the government to deliver on its numerous promises, perhaps it is now time to really start worrying.

A different mandate

In each of the three recent elections in Pakistan, in 2008, 2013 and last year in July, a different political party won and formed the government. The Pakistan Peoples Party in 2008, following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, had two Prime Ministers in its five-year tenure; but with Asif Zardari as President of Pakistan, this five-year tenure is better known as Mr. Zardari’s government. Similarly, after 2013, the Pakistan Muslim League’s Nawaz Sharif made a remarkable reappearance in Pakistan’s political scene and became Prime Minister for the third time, only to be debarred and removed from office, and subsequently imprisoned, and was replaced by one of his party members as Prime Minister. The 2013 government, even with Mr. Sharif behind bars, was known as his government. The third transition, or ‘experiment’ as it has been called since last year well before the elections took place, was for Pakistan’s military and judiciary, the so-called ‘establishment’, to work together and ensure an electoral victory for the third political party in as many elections, with Imran Khan winning.
The electoral results in 2008 and 2013 were not unexpected. After Benazir Bhutto’s killing, a sympathy wave led to her party winning enough seats to form a coalition government, but with its particularly poor performance in its five-year tenure, Mr. Sharif’s victory was also not unexpected. Despite the incarceration of Mr. Sharif and the multiple cases against him in 2017 and 2018, the general perception was that his party would probably get re-elected, albeit with a smaller majority. Mr. Khan’s victory followed on a multi-month strategy by the establishment to ensure that he would win, with ample evidence suggesting that he was ushered in with much help from behind the scenes. His shell-shocked victory speech a few hours after the elections suggested that even he was taken aback when victory was handed to him.

Five months on

Five months is a long enough time to be able to assess what a new government has done and the direction it intends to follow. Both the Zardari government of 2008 and the Sharif government in 2013 quickly went into taking numerous decisions soon after being elected. In 2008, with support from the Opposition led by Mr. Sharif, Mr. Zardari and his government worked together to jointly address issues concerning the economy, and to remove the then President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, by initiating a process to have him impeached, leading to his resignation. Differences emerged between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Zardari over issues about an amnesty granted to political leaders and about the reinstatement of members of the judiciary dismissed while General Musharraf was President. Nevertheless, the main purpose apparent from the beginning had been served and was clear from the start, to reclaim popular political space from the military, and to reassert the sovereignty of the law. Mr. Sharif, when he was elected in 2013, from the very first moment, started work on addressing Pakistan’s biggest problem at that time, the electricity crisis which was crippling the economy. After taking several decisions within days of assuming power, he started to put the economy on some track, and agreed to an International Monetary Fund programme.
The most noticeable demonstration of Mr. Khan’s government over the last five months has been best reflected in its ineptitude, indecision, bumbling, sanctimoniousness. For the past five months, we have been waiting for some major policy direction, vision, even just a simple decision on what to do next, but nothing so far has emerged. Other than the ‘we will put all the corrupt politicians in jail’ mantra, this government has been lacking in foresight and a sense of purpose. It is not inexperience which is the cause for this. Although Mr. Khan has not held a job for many years — his last paid job was probably as Pakistan’s cricket captain — most of his Ministers and advisers have been in government with one political party or another. In fact, many worked with General Musharraf when he was President. The many claims that Mr. Khan makes about strong leadership seem to be undermined with him in charge of Pakistan’s government.
Perhaps the most urgent and pressing problem facing Pakistan today is that of an economy quickly going into a crisis state, largely on account of inaction and uncertainty created by the Finance Minister. Pakistan’s growth rate in the fiscal year ending in June 2018 was 5.8%, the highest in 13 years. For the current fiscal year the expectations are that it will be closer to 3%. Inflation today is the highest in six years, and interest rates have been driven to double-digit levels with the Pakistani rupee depreciating 34% in 12 months. There is a growing balance of payments crisis, with exports stagnant and imports still rising, along with a fiscal deficit of more than 6% of GDP. The stock market has fallen, as have investor confidence and ratings of the economy. Foreign direct investment has fallen drastically since early 2018. The China Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC), which was touted as Pakistan’s ‘Marshall Plan’, seems to have completely gone off the radar for now, as the Chinese rethink their strategy for Pakistan. Knowing all this, Mr. Khan and his finance and economic team have done little to stabilise Pakistan’s economy, to draw a strategy to address these exacerbating problems. Other than begging for loans from the only three friends Pakistan is left with — Saudi Arabia, China and the UAE — there has been an absence of ideas about what to do. The populist promises of the election manifesto of Mr. Khan, of making Pakistan a model welfare state on the lines of the Prophet’s Medina, of providing millions of jobs and houses to Pakistanis, will all come undone unless the economy is first fixed.

A controlled democracy

The single most prominent feature of Mr. Khan’s five months has been his repeated pronouncements that he and his government are ‘on the same page’ with Pakistan’s military and judiciary. Unlike Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif, both fairly astute and experienced politicians, and not having had any government experience, Mr. Khan probably doesn’t realise the consequences of what this means and how being on the same page with dominating and powerful unelected institutions undermines and stifles the agency of elected governments. Rather than having used the short breathing space following his electoral victory by taking some resolute decisions, his inactions may not only reflect his inability to understand how to run a government but might simply be because he expects others on this ‘same page’ to do his bidding. In many ways, with a media that is strangulated, and politicians of the Opposition being hounded in the name of ‘accountability’, Pakistan may be back to its tried and trusted model of controlled democracy.

Hey Twitter, You & ‘#Pakistani Law’ Can’t Silence My Dissent


On Saturday, 10 November 2018, I woke up to an email in my inbox from Twitter Legal giving me a warning about my social media account. The email said:
“We are writing to inform you that Twitter has received official correspondence regarding your Twitter account, @TahaSSiddiqui. The correspondence claims that your account is in violation of Pakistani law. Please note we may be obligated to take action regarding the content identified in the complaint in the future. Please let us know by replying to this email as soon as possible if you decide to voluntarily remove the content identified on your account.”

Not a One-Off Incident

I was immediately taken aback not knowing what was going on, or who was it that had corresponded to Twitter about my tweets. Twitter had not even informed me of the content that they were talking about but then I started inquiring around and found out that another fellow journalist Gul Bukhari had received a similar email from Twitter.
Then I started getting reports about multiple Twitter users, mostly journalists and some activists about how they had received such emails too. Clearly there was a pattern and most of these Twitter users were the ones critical of Pakistani government especially the Pakistan Army.
However, most of these colleagues of mine decided to silently delete the tweets that were flagged, as they feared their accounts being muted in Pakistan, or worse suspended altogether. But since they live in the country still, their fear for further crackdown is not unfounded and understandable. In recent past, Pakistani authorities have been detaining, arresting and even kidnapping those vocal about state abuse on social media.
I, on the other hand, decided to challenge Twitter, given my exile abroad.
I resettled in France this February after surviving a kidnapping and possible assassination attempt on my life in January this year by armed men I believe to be from the Pakistan Army.

Twitter Giving in to Repressive Regimes?

So, I wrote back to the platform and explained my position. Firstly, I explained to Twitter how I do not live in the country any longer so Pakistani laws do not apply to me (even my Twitter location tag says I am in France). I then went on to explain how Pakistani laws can be problematic when it comes to international standards. And many of them are in direct violation of international values.
I explained how the law to declare someone Muslim or not, the blasphemy law, the Objective Resolution etc were in direct contravention of human rights values that Twitter should stand up for.
I also pointed out laws that have come into effect recently, that infringe upon the rights of people – for example the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) has already been widely used by the Pakistani government to quash dissent.
I waited for Twitter to respond, but it has not until now. And therefore, it seems like Twitter is only interested in intimidating me on behalf of a repressive regime like the one in Pakistan, that is controlled by the Pakistan Army from the shadows.

Twitter’s Got Money on Its Mind

Why is Twitter doing this? The most obvious and simple answer is: business interests.
According to independent estimates, over 44 million social media accounts exist in Pakistan and that is a big market. And it appears that Twitter does not want to lose this market, especially after it was threatened this August by the Pakistani government for not complying.
In a recent story reported by Pakistani media, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had informed the country’s Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat that while Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms had complied with requests from the government to block objectionable content, Twitter was not obliging.
An official of PTA further told the committee that “the platform would lose business if it was shut down in the country and that the authorities were determined to teach Twitter a lesson.”

 And voila, in less than three months, Twitter seems to have given in, like the other social media platforms that are already heavily censored in Pakistan. Facebook regularly removes pages and posts critical of the Pakistani state and its policies, especially the Pakistani army, and YouTube has introduced a local version for Pakistan (after it was blocked for almost three years). And therefore, it is safe to say that today these social media giants have become collaborators of repressive regimes like the one in my country.
In the past, these websites were blocked by the Pakistani regulators under the pretext of blasphemy laws, but it seems that the current government is not even looking for such an excuse. And has just communicated point blank about shutting down the website, if it fails to abide by the country's requests.
But the more they silence us, the stronger we become. Ever since Twitter has sent me the email, and I have gone public about it – more and more Pakistani social media users, especially journalists and activists, are coming forward to speak about how they have faced similar harassment by the social media giant.
Renowned international publications have reached out to me to do a story about this issue. So, in effect, the results that the government of Pakistan wanted to achieve with the help of Twitter to silence me and other dissenters have only exposed them more and made our voice louder. I hope they have learnt a lesson.

Pakistan Army’s Threats Won’t Silence Me: Journalist Taha Siddiqui


On 10 January 2018, I was on my way to the Islamabad airport in a taxi, when it was intercepted on the highway. I was almost kidnapped by armed men, who I believe are from the Pakistan Army, but I escaped at the last minute.
I have since left Pakistan, and now live in France. The military had been threatening me for a few years for my journalistic work, and I was told that the next time they come for me, they’d kill me.
I was lucky to escape the country, but my journalist colleagues in Pakistan haven’t been as fortunate. The situation for the press has only worsened under the new Imran Khan-led regime, whose political party came into power in July 2018, and is considered close to the army.

Pakistan’s Clampdown On Freedom Of Press

Given several such attacks (like the one on me) in the last year or so against Pakistani journalists, the press has been pushed into self-censorship. A recent study found out that 88 percent of Pakistani journalists exercise self-censorship when reporting on sensitive issues like the military, religion, human rights etc.
Many journalists agree that the year 2018 has been exceptionally worse for our community, given the state-led clampdown on the freedom of press.

A leading news channel Geo News was taken off cable networks, and one of the oldest newspapers, Dawn's supply continues to remain disrupted in the country while facing treason charges, because these organisations have been critical of Pakistani military.
According to Freedom Network, an independent media-monitoring body, 26 journalists have been killed in Pakistan in just five years, and more than 100 have been murdered in the past decade and a half. What’s worse, a majority of these killings remain unsolved, and are related to conflict reporting.

Threat of Losing One’s Livelihood

Now journalists are even facing economic threats: hundreds of news practitioners have lost their jobs in Pakistan in recent months over a financial crunch that seems manufactured. This, since new media organisations are launching news channels at the same time as some news channels and news papers are shutting down over ad revenues being dried up.
Most of these organisations that are cutting back on costs, have been critical of the government and the military. And it is not just the mainstream media that is facing the onslaught.
The internet and social media are also being heavily censored in Pakistan, and reports suggest that this trend has increased in the last one year. More than 800,000 websites are banned in the country by the internet regulatory body (according to a recent report).
Giant social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been working with the Pakistani government, and have been helping the authorities in my country to silence social media users. Online activists also regularly get abducted by intelligence officials from the Pakistan Army.
In this environment, it is best to stay away from the country as I did for the last year. But even abroad, they are harassing dissidents like me.

Heckling, And Campaigns of Hate

When I recently spoke in Washington, DC at a conference of Pakistani dissidents organised by Husain Haqqani (the former Pakistan Ambassador to the US), who, like me, is in exile too, a handful of Pakistani men tried to gate crash this invite-only event and protested when they were not allowed to come in.
They made videos of this forced entry, and soon after, Pakistani news channels (known to be close to the Pakistani military) started running this footage, accusing us of being traitors.
Some Pakistani journalists who reported this incident later claimed that they were tasked by the military official at the Pakistani embassy in DC to use the videos of this staged protest, and give it extensive media coverage.
Then we also faced an organised campaign of hate, initiated against us on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The Pakistani military allegedly runs social media cells with troll armies that attack independent voices in Pakistan. I know of this because I met some such youngsters at a military-run university in Islamabad a few years ago, when I went to give a lecture.

Amid Death Threats & Struggle, Hope for a Better Pakistan

Military personnel involved in managing the press (from back home) have also repeatedly reached out to me directly. Three times publicly via social media, and few times privately via phone, asking me to return, but assuring my guarantee only if I start doing “positive reporting”, and stop writing or publicly speaking critically about the Pakistan Army. (‘Positive journalism’ is a term that the chief of the military media cell General Asif Ghafoor recently spoke about in a press conference).
And now there are even more serious threats that I have become privy to. I recently met with Western law enforcement authorities and found out about a plot to assassinate me, if I were to ever return to my country.
I was also advised to not visit Pakistan embassies and Pakistan-friendly countries. Similar advisories have been received by other Pakistanis critical of the military.
This latest development has put me in a dilemma. I keep wondering if all this life-threatening struggle is worth it?
In this last one year, I have thought many times about giving up my fight to speak up about Pakistan and the wrongs there, and focus on something else in life.
But one thought makes me continue – I want to see a better Pakistan.
I want to see a Pakistan where human rights are not abused, where pluralism is celebrated and freedom of expression is a guarantee. And a Pakistan where I can return to to live again and not be killed.